Bellingham couple helps save Alaskan fisherman

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- An Alaskan fisherman spent a long night at sea afloat in little more than a bucket, but the man survived his ordeal thanks in large part to a Bellingham couple.

Commercial fishing has been a life-long pursuit for Joel Brady-Power and Tele Aadsen, and the Bellingham couple knows just how dangerous the sea can be.

The pair first heard a Coast Guard distress call in southeastern Alaska warning of two fisherman fighting to survive after their boat sank. Brady-Power and Aadsen were running their trawler nearby and thought the worst.

When they decided to help, they knew it would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

"It's just really scary because you just know, like I said, it could be any of us," Brady-Power said.

Better news came the next day when a second transmission offered a glimmer of hope.

"They came on the radio and said, 'Hey we've got a survivor on the beach. We can see somebody, he's moving,'" Aadsen said.

The skipper told rescuers a wave swamped his boat and he and his mate became separated. He said he last saw 19-year-old Ryan Harris drifting off in a fishing tote.

"So now we're thinking, 'Ok, he was in a tote. There's a chance he could be alive. Would he be able to ride that storm out in a tote?'" Brady-Power said.

With the faint hope they could find Harris alive, the pair decided to run up the coast. And, like a needle in a haystack, a blue tote floated into view.

"I just about jumped out of my seat," Brady-Power said. "I was just fumbling, trying to grab the radio."

He called the Coast Guard as Harris waved for help.

"I just stood on the bow and waved my arms back and was like, man you made it," Aadsen said.

A helicopter arrived soon after and lowered a basked while a rescue swimmer jumped in to help Harris to safety. The Bellingham couple give all credit to the Coast Guard, but they say they're proud to be part of a family of fisherman who stretch their own safety net.

"We were the ones that found him, but there was a whole train of other boats behind us that night, coming to Sitka, that were all looking, too," Aadsen said.