Sullivan Honors Alaskans of the Week: Young Aniak Rescuers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday, U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) recognized five young Alaskans who rescued four people from a crashed Alaska Division of Forestry plane in a lake near Aniak in late May. The young men—Dylan Nicholson, 13 years old, Trevor Morgan and Mason Dallmann, both 17, A.J. Simeon, 19, and Skye Morgan, 18—sprung into action and saved lives upon coming across the crash site. Senator Sullivan recognized them as part of his series, “Alaskan of the Week.”

Tribute to Dylan Nicholson, Trevor Morgan, Mason Dallmann, A.J. Simeon, and Skye Morgan

Mr. President, it is that time of the week where I get to come down and talk about an Alaskan--this time five Alaskans--who is doing great things for our community, our State, and sometimes our country. It is what we call the Alaskan of the Week or Alaskans of the Week. This is one of my favorite parts of the job. I know the Presiding Officer loves these speeches too. When we had pages here, they really loved it. We will get them back here soon, hopefully.

In all seriousness, of course, our country is facing very challenging times, and we have been tested as a nation and as a State on so many levels. If you read the newspaper, you think there is nothing going right, but I will tell you one thing I certainly see in my State. I was home for 3 weeks this past State work period, and I noticed this. There is empathy, kindness, understanding, and people working together and coming together. That is the big story, and I think we ought to keep an eye on that.

People are putting aside their own interests to help their neighbors, to help the elderly, our elders, our seniors. People are partaking in conversations about the soul of our Nation--sometimes uncomfortable conversations but I think overall constructive, important conversations in trying to help each other, to make our communities better, stronger, and make our country better and stronger as we struggle through an unprecedented pandemic.

I certainly see that across my State, and I am certain that the Presiding Officer sees that in his State, and it is really the best of America. It is important to remember that.

One of the reasons I love doing this ``Alaskan of the Week” speech is because we get to highlight this not just for people in Alaska but for the country, people who are working hard for each other--maybe not getting the recognition they deserve but still doing very important work.

This week, I am going to honor five very fine, young Alaskans, young heroes who, because of their bravery and instincts and courage, very well likely saved lives. They are our Alaskans of the week. But before I talk about them, I always give an update of what is going on back home. 

The weather has been glorious in many areas. There has been a lot of Sun--the midnight Sun, of course. There is even more Sun than in Florida right now at this time. The salmon are choking our rivers. I was out in Naknek, in the Crystal Bay region. There are huge sockeye salmon runs happening right now, which is great.

There is also struggling in other parts of the State. Fire season is upon us. This is something we have every year. I used to be the commissioner of natural resources in charge of our Division of Forestry--the brave men and women who fight fires in Alaska and all over the country, really. Sometimes we have really challenging fire seasons. Last summer was a really challenging one for us. Firefighters across the country came and helped Alaska with our challenges. They happened primarily by lightning strikes--thousands in a day, you will get in Alaska. In just 1 day, there are thousands.

So far, the fire season in Alaska--knock on wood--this summer has not been nearly as intense as last summer, but our firefighters are still out there taking on huge fires. You don't read about them in the lower 48. It is dangerous work--very dangerous work.

That brings me to the story of our Alaskans of the week: Dylan Nicholson, who is 13 years old; Trevor Morgan and Mason Dallmann, both 17 years old; A.J. Simeon, who is 19; and Skye Morgan, who is 18.

On the afternoon of May 28, just 2 months ago, these five young men from Aniak, AK--a village of about 500 people that sits 300 miles west of Anchorage--were driving in a truck and on a four-wheeler in a gravel pit area a few miles away from the village. On their way back home, they passed a lake by the road and saw a small yellow airplane that was in the lake. It obviously had just crashed. Obviously, it had just crashed. Inside the plane were three emergency firefighters and a pilot. They had been on their way to the Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage to support firefighters there. This is late May.

To the boys--these young men--the plane seemed to materialize out of thin air. One of them, Trevor Morgan, is quoted as saying: ``I was like, `Dang man, that wasn't there 30 seconds ago,' “ and now there is a plane in the lake.

When they heard the shouting coming from the plane and people emerging, the young men sprung into action. The 13-year-old, Dylan, called his aunt, who works at the Alaska State Trooper dispatch office. Then they did something very brave. They jumped into the freezing water.

Now, remember, this is May in Alaska. That lake was probably frozen over just a couple of months earlier. They helped two of the passengers out through the mud and onto the shore. They loaded them into a truck and drove them to a nearby clinic. Two of the other passengers, however, were still stuck in the plane in the water because they were too badly injured to leave the plane. 

So, Mason Dallmann, 17 years old, waded out into the water where he stayed with them to make sure they could hang on until help arrived. Now, remember, this is freezing water. By the way, it was thick with diesel oil coming from the engine, so highly dangerous if somehow this was going to ignite.

He was in there keeping them comforted for about 30 minutes. He didn't leave their side. One passenger who was badly injured grabbed onto Mason, and Mason said: Don't worry. I am not going to leave you.

Eventually, 30 minutes in the freezing cold water full of diesel, first responders came and helped get the men out of the plane and transported them to a clinic and a hospital. Two of them suffered severe injuries, but, fortunately, all of them are recovering, and they are recovering thanks to these five young men and boys who spotted the plane in the first place, which wasn't a given, since it was miles away from town, and then they reacted and got them help.

"We are very fortunate,” said Alaska State Forest Director Chris Maisch, whom I know very well. He said: "You couldn't have asked for a better emergency response in this rural community from [these] young people.”

Aniak City Councilman David Mattson arrived at the crash scene when the rescue was going on. He calls the action of these young men ``heroic.” Councilman Mattson said: Being a hero means going above and beyond for other people--putting others before themselves. And that is what those boys did--at such a young age. And such a quick reaction  time. It is so inspiring. 

He had lived in other cities across the country, but he gives credit to the way these boys were raised in the valleys of Aniak. He said:

We are a big family out here. It doesn't matter what you look like, or who you are or what you do--you're a fellow citizen and if you need help, [people in this part of Alaska in America] we jump in and help [others]. 

So these are just a few stellar examples of young Americans, young Alaskans, our next generation, who are out there doing their part--doing their part to help us during these challenging times. With young men and women like these all across our Nation and all across my State, we know we are going to continue to thrive as a country, as Americans, and as Alaskans, no matter what. We know it.

So to Dylan, Trevor, Mason, A.J., Skye, and your families, thank you for being an inspiration to us all. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for jumping in a cold lake to save lives. Thank you for your heroism. Thank you for stepping up when your community and people in need really needed you without asking any questions and without hesitating. Congratulations on being our Alaskans of the Week. 

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