Fairbanks teen doesn't believe he was in danger on Chena River ice floe

FAIRBANKS - A short trip down the Chena River atop an ice floe earned a Fairbanks teenager a night in jail following his rescue by Fairbanks Fire Department personnel Friday.

Michael Poland’s unexpected journey began near Graehl Park landing and concluded about a half-mile downriver behind the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center where he was rescued after two firefighters launched a red, inflatable rescue boat into the frigid water.

Cheers rose from a couple dozen spectators lining the riverbank as rescuers pulled carefully alongside the fragile-looking, 10-foot by 15-foot ice floe where Poland sat calmly on a plastic milk crate talking on a cellphone.

Dressed in jeans, a short-sleeve T-shirt, and tennis shoes, the 18-year-old stepped into the rescue boat and donned a red life vest provided by his rescuers, before the boat continued downstream to a landing near Golden Heart Park.

The current was reportedly too swift to return to Graehl Landing.

Along with numerous emergency vehicles and public safety personnel on the scene, Fairbanks Police were also on hand when Poland made landfall. He was arrested, handcuffed and stowed in a waiting police cruiser for his second unanticipated trip of the evening — this time to the Fairbanks Correctional Center.

Police Officer Robert Hall said Poland was being charged with disorderly conduct for creating a hazardous condition for the Fire Department members who rescued him.

According to police records, numerous 911 calls started coming in shortly before 10 p.m. Friday, reporting five people jumping on river ice near the Graehl Landing.

A member of Volunteers in Policing went to investigate and reported that part of the ice, with someone on it, had broken away and was floating downstream under the Wendell Street Bridge.

According to Drake Ackerman, Before Poland was out of reach his friends managed to throw him a dark green milk crate to sit on and a white cooler lid to use as a paddle through the swirling current.

Ackerman confirmed that he and Poland and some other friends were playing on the ice near the Graehl boat landing when the ice floe broke loose stranding Poland on it.

Poland spent the night in jail and was arraigned before a magistrate Saturday afternoon. According to FCC booking he was sentenced to 10 days in jail with 10 days suspended, and released.

In the charging documents put together by Officer Robert Hall, Poland is quoted as saying that “What I did was kind of stupid.”

Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.