Illinois man stuck in Alaska mud flats drowns as tide comes in

An Illinois man was reportedly drowned over the weekend after walking along the mudflats of an Alaska estuary when the tide came in and he got stuck.

The Lake Bluff man was there with friends Sunday night and was waist-deep in quicksand-like silt.

The body of Zachary Porter, 20, was recovered Monday morning.

Officials told the Associated Press that members of his group called 911 because they were unable to get him out, but it was too late.

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A channel through mudflats along the Seward Highway and Turnagain Arm in Alaska on October 25, 2014. A desperate rescue team rescued a 20-year-old male friend from Illinois who was walking through mudflats on the night of Sunday, May 21, 2023, after getting stuck waist-deep in quicksand-like mud at the mouth of an Alaska river, authorities said. Before I could, the tide came in and I drowned. (Bob Harinen/Anchorage Daily News, via AP)

“It’s big, it’s amazing, it’s beautiful, it’s overwhelming,” Christy Peterson, manager and chief paramedic at the Hope Sunrise Volunteer Fire Department, told the station. “But we must remember that it is Mother Nature and she is merciless towards humanity.”

She answered the phone and spoke to others at Porter’s party, but not to him directly. Mr Peterson said he received a call for help after Mr Porter was in serious trouble and urged people to call 911 as soon as possible.

Another department, about an hour’s drive away, also responded to the incident.

A group of surfers boating on the Turnagain Arm

A group of surfers ride boat tides on July 15, 2014 at the Turnagain Arm in Anchorage, Alaska. (Photo Credit: Streeter Rekka/Getty Images)

The accident occurred near the Hope community across from the Turnagain Arm. Carved out by glaciers, the 78-mile-long estuary is a 90-minute drive from Anchorage. It parallels the Seward Highway, the only highway heading south.

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Peterson said the Turnagain Arm is known for its “swallowable” tidal flats at low tide.

“It looks solid, but it’s not,” she noted.

When the tide comes in, the silt gets wet and loosens, creating a vacuum when a person walks over it.

Turnagain arm of Alaska

A view of the Turnagain Arms in Alaska. (Photo Credit: Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Signs have been installed to warn people about dangerous waters and tidal flats.


At least three other people have been stranded or drowned in recent years, and many more have been rescued.

Earlier this month, a fisherman was rescued after his leg came off and he sank up to his waist.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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