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Utah hiker saves Anchorage man drowning in frigid Portage Lake

Alaska Dispatch
Creative Commons photo

A questionable decision for afternoon swimming in the frigid remnants of Portage Glacier nearly cost Jin Tae Chong his life earlier this week, according to Alaska State Troopers. 

The 21-year-old Anchorage man attempted swimming to a gravel mound some 75 feet from the shore of Portage Lake, a massive puddle of near-freezing glacial melt lapping up against the Whittier Tunnel and Begich-Boggs Visitor Center in Portage Valley, some 52 miles south of Alaska's largest city along Turnagain Arm. Halfway to the mound, Chong began drowning, troopers reported.

Levi Matheson Taylor happened to be hiking nearby when he saw Chong drowning. The 28-year-old Utah man didn't know Chong but swam out to him, anyway, pulling him safely onto the gravel. 

Eventually, troopers arrived via cruise boat to rescue the two stranded men. A skiff operated by a Portage Lake cruise company delivered the trooper to the mound; Chong and Taylor were picked up and returned to shore, cold but safe. Both men declined hospital treatment. 

CORRECTION: This story was changed after it was discovered Chong swam to a gravel island, not an gravel-covered ice berg as first reported by Alaska State Troopers.