Maria Pestrikoff’s screams alerted her friend Anthony Burke that she was in danger.
On the afternoon of Sept. 17, Burke heard a noise coming from outside, but didn’t know what it was. At first he thought it was a child hollering for a dog, but he quickly realized it was someone calling for help.
Burke ran to the back of a home that backed up against a cliff on Thurston Lane in Jackson Trailer Park. The gate to the yard was open when Burke reached it, and when he looked over the edge of the cliff, he saw Pestrikoff on the rocks 60 feet below.
“I heard a noise and I had no idea what it was,” Burke said. “She was in the rocks between the boulders and she was calling for help. She was screaming in agony.”
Bayside Fire Department received the initial call for assistance and was first on scene with an ambulance from the Kodiak Fire Department.
Due to the complexity of the rescue, the Kodiak Fire Department was called for its expertise with rope rescues, which the department practices on a routine basis.
“It’s a very hard rescue,” Bayside Fire Chief Bob Himes said. “It’s very technical, and it doesn’t happen that often. We rely on the city and the Coast Guard fire departments who have the manpower to do the training.”
Burke and two Bayside volunteer first responders were attending to Pestrikoff, having used a nearby aluminum ladder, when the Kodiak Fire Department arrived.
“I arrived on scene as part of the mutual aid request, assessed the situation, and along with fire Lt. Matt Stone (rappeled) down to the victim and prepared to package her for the 60-foot lift back to the top of the cliff,” city fire Chief Rome Kamai said in an email.
By the time the Kodiak Fire Department got to Pestrikoff, the tide was coming in. Rescuers had to act quickly — she was only about 10 feet from the water’s edge.
“The incoming tide was a factor to consider with regard to expediting the patient’s lift and removal from the beach so as to not introduce cold water hypothermia as another factor influencing her injuries,” Kamai said.
Pestrikoff had multiple injuries from the fall, but was stabilized and placed in a rolled stretcher for the lift. She was then hauled up the cliff and transported in an ambulance to Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center.
“The communication between departments was incredibly good,” Burke said. “It had to be precise because the tide was coming in. The tide was right up to her toes by the time they were able to get her out.”
Pestrikoff was texting and trying to toss a cigarette butt over the cliff when she slipped on the wet grass and fell over the edge, Burke said.
“It was a long drop down the bluff,” Burke said. “She was very lucky she didn’t get killed.”
Pestrikoff was flown to an Anchorage hospital, where she is currently recovering from her injuries.