Incoming Coast Guard Sector Juneau commander Capt. Darwin A. Jensen, left, and outgoing commander Capt. Stephen R. White, right, congratulate Herman Cestero, center, for his quick action in rescuing a fisherman in distress on June 24, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Incoming Coast Guard Sector Juneau commander Capt. Darwin A. Jensen, left, and outgoing commander Capt. Stephen R. White, right, congratulate Herman Cestero, center, for his quick action in rescuing a fisherman in distress on June 24, 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Visitor rescues fisherman trapped in mud near hatchery

The Texas man was visiting his son, recently stationed in Juneau.

A Texas man visiting his son, recently stationed at Coast Guard Sector Juneau, aided a fisherman in distress near the Douglas Island Pink and Chum pier on Thursday morning.

Herman Cestero had gone out to DIPAC on his last day in town to eyeball the topography of the channel bottom for his son, an avid fisherman, when he noticed something amiss.

“I drove out there and I was taking pictures,” Cestero said in a phone interview. “I couldn’t figure out why someone would be out on the flat. About halfway down, I yelled at him, ‘Are you all right?’ And he said, ‘No.’”

The fisherman had become trapped in the silty mud and was unable to get himself free, Cestero said. A long-serving Marine veteran and officer with Customs and Border Protection, Cestero said he’s lent a hand to folks in difficult spots in the past, but never in a situation quite like this.

[Coming and going: Commanders talk Sector Juneau]

“I ran down to him. He wasn’t panicking, but he wouldn’t be there if he could get out of it,” Cestero said. “I went up and grabbed the ring and ran back down and threw the ring to him.”

After assessing the viability of several options, Cestero was able to pull the fisherman out of the mud to safety onto the rocky shore.

“It was about a 20-foot slide to get him to the beach,” Cestero said. “He was completely gassed.”

Cestero was recognized by Sector Juneau commander Capt. Stephen R. White and by incoming commander Capt. Darwin A. Jensen for his quick response.

“If it were not for Mr. Cestero’s selfless actions and willingness to help another person in distress, this situation could have ended very differently. Bravo Zulu for a job well done,” read the post.

Cestero has since departed Juneau back to the Lower 48, but said he thoroughly enjoyed his visit.

“It’s beautiful,” Cestero said of Juneau. “I would move there.”

Juneau’s huge tidal variance can lead to treacherous conditions for the unwary, the Sector Juneau post cautioned.

“This story has a positive ending, but PLEASE be cautious of your surroundings, especially during low tide when the seabed is exposed. Although not too far from the dock or shore, the muddy bottom conditions can allow your boots to sink in deep and act like concrete around your legs providing so much suction that you may not be able to self rescue,” read the social media post. “So while you are out there slaying the Chinooks and Cohos from shore, be continually aware of the tides and changing conditions around you.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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