Twenty-five years ago, Juneau Police Department Officer Karl William Reishus fell to his death while trying to save two firefighters during a training exercise.
On Thursday, JPD and Capital City Fire/Rescue came together to honor his memory, unveiling two plaques that will be placed in the police department and at the Hagevig Regional Fire Training Center, where the accident occurred.
Reishus’ widow, Sue Reishus-O’Brien, still lives in Juneau. After his death, she became active in working with family members of coworkers of those killed in the line of duty and in 2000, received a First Lady Volunteer Award for her involvement with Concerns of Police Survivors.
The ceremony dedicated to honoring her late husband was especially important to her because of their children, now 25, 29 and 31, Reishus-O’Brien said.
“It’s important for them to know their dad mattered,” she said. “It’s great because I’m seeing faces I haven’t seen for years. Karl’s college best friend is here. One of the firemen who was hurt in the accident is here. …. (The kids) hadn’t met a lot of the people here, because they were so young.”
The remembrance also served as a “good reminder to the entire community that policemen’s lives matter,” Reishus-O’Brien said, adding that she felt “honored” that CCFR got involved. “I’m biased, but I think the Juneau Police Department and the troopers here are just absolutely phenomenal. The support they have for each other leaves me in awe — they’re amazing people.”
Reishus was just 29 on May 2, 1992, when he fell during the training exercise at the Fire Department’s burn tower. A litter carrying two firefighters was being lowered down the 40-foot tower and slipped loose; Reishus tried to hold on to the litter, but the weight of the two firemen pulled him over the edge of the tower.
One fireman suffered a broken back, thigh bones and ankles while the other required two surgeries on his ankles; Reishus died two days later from his injuries.
Speakers at the ceremony held at the Alaska State Museum included current JPD Chief Bryce Johnson, as well as Alaska State Fire Marshal David Tyler and City and Borough of Juneau Assemblyman Jerry Nankervis, a former coworker.
Reishus’ death had a profound impact on him, Tyler said, adding that remembering fallen brothers is a core value he holds dear.
Nankervis said that Reishus-O’Brien asked him to keep it light and he complied, sharing stories that had many in the crowd laughing in recognition.
Reishus was enthusiastic about his work, Nankervis said, adding that being a cop “should be a passion, it shouldn’t be a paycheck.”
The two-year veteran of the JPD will have a street named after him in the Pederson Hill subdivision, Nankervis said, adding, “That’s a legacy I was able to give him.”
• Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 523-2246 or firstname.lastname@example.org.