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 firstname.lastname@example.org.