High school student rescues two swimmers


Bill Reynolds

Finn Hakenson

A La Conner High School senior is a true lifesaver.

Not just once, but twice.

Finn Hakenson on separate occasions earlier this month helped two men in distress in Whistle Lake at Mount Erie Park in Anacortes. Both survived thanks in great part to Hakenson's fast thinking and strong swimming skills.

The first rescue, on May 12, was the most dramatic.

Hakenson was in the lake waiting for his friends and track and field teammates Brenden Kitchen, Isaac Kitchen, Floyd Dent and Flint Huizenga to dive in.

"That's when I heard a guy behind me yelling for help," Hakenson told the Weekly News. "He was about 30 feet behind me."

The man was trying to keep another swimmer, whom Hakenson judged to be in his early 20s, above water. The La Conner teen recognized that if the man kept trying to lift the struggling swimmer that he, too, could plunge underneath.

So, Hakenson quickly swam to them and helped the man who had called out bring the distressed swimmer toward shore.

"I was the first person there," Hakenson recalled. "He already looked dead. His lips were blue, his eyes were wide open and his arms were extended."

The other La Conner students rendered aid as well. It was Isaac Kitchen who called 911, then joined Dent in bringing first responders to the scene. All assisted getting the man out of the water.

CPR was performed by a friend of the swimmer as Hakenson ran up the nearly 1.3-mile trail to find more help.

"I'm in track," Hakenson said modestly, "but I'm not a long-distance guy."

When he returned to the scene, Hakenson saw the man receiving treatment from paramedics.

"He was responsive," said Hakenson, obviously much relieved.

La Conner High head track coach Peter Voorhees, who has made community service a team priority, was impressed at how his charges reacted under pressure.

"I'm proud that they responded so well in a really hard situation," Voorhees said.

For Hakenson, his Good Samaritan role was only half complete. He returned to Whistle Lake the following Monday – a day in which local temperatures flirted with the 80s – and once again came to the rescue.

This time, Hakenson saw a man attempt to dive backward off a cliff above the lake. He didn't land well.

Hakenson could tell the man needed assistance.

"He was panting, struggling to swim," Hakenson said. "I grabbed an arm and dog-paddled to shore. He looked like a young person, maybe about my age and he could swim, but not very well."

Hakenson has always enjoyed swimming but hasn't received any lifeguard training. His instincts, however, suggest otherwise.

For now, though, he's looking forward to a little less excitement going forward.

"I'm going to SVC in the fall," he said, "and in the meantime I'll keep working in town at the Waterfront Café."

Whether in the classroom or on the job, one thing is certain. Hakenson clearly knows how to keep his head above water.


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