A hero and a gentleman

  • Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News

    Andrew Denny, a Kauai native who was camped near where an accident happened, describes helping a woman who was in Westchester Lagoon in Anchorage, Alaska, after an SUV left Minnesota Drive around midnight Tuesday.

Andrew Denny says he was just in the right place at the right time.

He says he was just doing what a military veteran would do.

Some would say he’s a hero, and that he saved a life.

“I just want you to emphasize what a service member truly does,” he said during a phone interview with The Garden Island Friday. “It’s our unique generation.”

Denny, born and raised in Lawai and a 1997 Kauai High graduate, pulled a woman from icy waters following an accident in Anchorage, Alaska, early Tuesday morning.

Three people were in the SUV that left Minnesota Drive and crashed into Westchester Lagoon. One died and two were hospitalized, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Denny was camping during his visit to Alaska and sitting by a campfire when he heard what he called “a nightmarish, crunching crash sound like I’ve never heard before.”

It was shortly after midnight, about 30 degrees, and the crash was about 100 yards away.

“I said a prayer even before I stood up because I just knew that was going to be a car accident,” he said.

He rushed to the scene and saw an SUV on its side in the water, smoke rising.

The 40-year-old said he often uses the expression, “God, are you kidding me?” This was one of those times. He believed he was supposed to be there and he had to rise to the challenge.

“Then I heard screams coming from the water,” he said.

Denny looked into the darkness and saw a head bobbing above the surface, some 30 feet from shore. He said another quick prayer, took off his jacket and shirt and waded into the murky, mucky water.

“The water wasn’t super deep, but it was cold,” he said.

He reached the woman, took hold, and began pulling her to shore. Others in the area had arrived and were waiting on land when he called for help to lift her from the water.

The woman was in shock, but was breathing, he said.

Denny yelled for someone to bring blankets, coats, whatever they had to warm her up. Soon, medics and other emergency responders arrived and took over.

His combat experience, he said, helped him remain calm as he delivered what first aid he could.

“It was not even that scary,” he said.

Denny said he stuck around, answered some questions for authorities and watched them search for other occupants of the SUV.

“I couldn’t do anything more,” he said, “so I stood on the side and let the paramedics do what they do best.”

He was later interviewed by media, and a few people thanked him for his courage and quick actions.

“Are you the guy on the news?” they asked.

“Yeah, that was me,” he said.

The Anchorage Daily News reported that the cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Denny, whose 14-year military career included serving in the Air Force and the National Security Agency, wrote to Hawaii’s Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard about what happened.

“This is what veterans do,” he said.

A response from the Gabbard campaign said: “Thanks for your note! My team and I read every email that comes in and your feedback, ideas, stories, prayers, hopes and dreams are important to us. This campaign is about lifting up the voices of the people. Your voice. Our voice.”

Denny said he was just glad God put him there and that he was able to help the woman.

“I had the honor of jumping in the water and dragging her ashore,” he wrote on his blog.

The Denny family, he added, is like that, too.

“We are just gentlemen,” he said.

Later, Denny returned to his campsite, put on dry clothes, ate some eggs and took a nap. When he woke up, police were still investigating the scene, so he wandered to a 24-hour diner, sans shoes, because his only pair was still soaked.

Ironically, the night manager told him to leave as he wasn’t wearing shoes.

Denny said he tried to explain what happened, but he understood that at 4 a.m. the manager probably wasn’t in the mood for some wild tale about a car crash, a dramatic rescue and the hero standing there, shoeless.

It was, he said, a bit humorous.

The next day, though, as the story came to light, the diner apologized to Denny and gave him a free meal.

“It’s kind of funny,” he said, laughing. “I’m living off savings, saving money by camping, and saving some people.”

•••

Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

5 Comments
  1. Steven McMacken November 9, 2019 6:48 am Reply

    So, let me see if I have this straight: God puts Andrew in a situation where he could save lives, yet thinks that is more important than saving the life of the person who tragically dies in the accident? And now Mr. Denny is calling his generation unique, as if someone else in the exact same circumstances wouldn’t have done the same thing? Finally, just to make certain he wrings as much publicity out of this as he can, he writes Congresswoman Gabbard to inform her of his heroic actions? This is what veterans do? Really?


  2. An Alaskan November 11, 2019 10:23 am Reply

    You write, “So, let me see if I have this straight: God puts Andrew in a situation where he could save lives, yet thinks that is more important than saving the life of the person who tragically dies in the accident?”

    It’s not as if he saw the other two people. It was a horrific accident that at least three Anchorage local media outlets reported on None of the three people in the car were wearing seatbelts, all were thrown clear of the car, he helped to save the one he saw & could help, just after midnight on a dark rainy night at below freezing temperatures. Yes, that was a heroic action.


  3. L. Brown November 12, 2019 2:25 pm Reply

    The self-promotion is pretty funny, tho.


    1. Andrew Denny November 18, 2019 3:16 pm Reply

      Mr. or Ms. Brown,

      Does this sound like “self-promotion?” How do you support others’ First Amendment rights? By accusing a man of faith as self-promoting? Shame on you, if that’s the case. I look forward to your response.

      From the article:

      “The 40-year-old said he often uses the expression, “God, are you kidding me?” This was one of those times. He believed he was supposed to be there and he had to rise to the challenge.”

      And…

      “Denny said he was just glad God put him there and that he was able to help the woman.”


  4. Andrew Denny November 18, 2019 3:14 pm Reply

    Mr. McMaken,

    Some further facts to address your comment:

    First, the weather was pretty cold – 27 degrees was the predicted overnight low. The lagoon was dark, and the vehicle was 30-50 feet into the lagoon. The police and paramedics’ responses that arrived on the scene after I pulled the woman from the water did NOT get in the water – their protocol was to wait for the “divers.” Regrettably, about 45mins after I got out of the water, I heard the words “I found a body” as a “diver” discovered the corpse of the deceased passenger, about 10 feet or so from where I pulled the female victim out of the water.

    Second, USA Today and other social scientists are calling my generation unique: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2018/12/20/xennials-millennials-generation-x-microgeneration/2369230002/. Additionally, there were two Alaskans who stopped their cards at the accident scene that did NOT do anything. For whatever reason – they stood frozen on the highway median, and watched me jump in the water by myself. And finally, even when I pulled the victim into the thick muck and mire at the shoreline, I had to yell loudly and repeatedly to the immobilized bystanders, and by proxy the police officer, to help me pull the woman out of the frozen pond. The victim was about 200 pound of waterlogged barely conscious weight. In response to my pleas for help, only one of the two citizen bystanders came down to try and assist; and his effort was, well, lackluster, as he did not get into the freezing mud and could not get leverage to help me lift her up out of the water.

    And to your third point and overall theme that this is an act of self-promotion, perhaps you did not quite comprehend the takeaway for me, as Mr. Buley captured in this form of writing:

    “The 40-year-old said he often uses the expression, “God, are you kidding me?” This was one of those times. He believed he was supposed to be there and he had to rise to the challenge.”

    And…

    “Denny said he was just glad God put him there and that he was able to help the woman.”

    Finally, as far as your critique on my intentions to share article with Congresswoman Gabbard, perhaps you could give some of your credentials and ancestry before you make assumptions about who I am and the level of Hawaiian and honorable servicemember pride that you apparently cannot fathom.

    While you wallow in your naysaying, you can thank a veteran for your First Amendment rights, and please stop restricting my right to express my religion freely and encourage The Garden Island newspaper and other media outlets to continue to independently publish articles without such doubtful, dubious, and rude commentary. Bless you, and lucky you live on Kaua’i in the USA. Despite all her faults, some of us Hawaiian-Americans of mixed ancestry are serving our community and supporting our elected leaders, especially all majors in the US Army National Guard.


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