Fundraiser organized for pilot

A Haines Junction man who has spent much of his life rescuing others now needs some help of his own. A fundraiser is being organized for long-time helicopter pilot Doug Makkonen, who fell ill recently while visiting the U.S.

A Haines Junction man who has spent much of his life rescuing others now needs some help of his own.

A fundraiser is being organized for long-time helicopter pilot Doug Makkonen, who fell ill recently while visiting the U.S. and spent five days in a coma.

Makkonen went to Arizona in late November after his wife, Adaire, was in a truck accident. He wanted to be with her and help her drive back, said friend Marinka Darling.

Rather than make a beeline back to the Yukon, the couple decided to first visit Las Vegas a few weeks ago, Darling said.

But then Makkonen fell very ill.

He was in a coma for five days. When he awoke he was transferred to a different facility in Las Vegas.

Medical costs were about $10,000 a night.

On Wednesday, he was medevaced from Las Vegas to Kelowna General Hospital, at a cost of about $30,000.

From his bedside, Adaire told the News her husband is still very sick.

“He came down to rescue me, I was in a truck accident and tore my arm all up, my rotary cuff and bicep. I was having trouble driving so he came down to rescue me and bring me back home,” she said.

“He said, ‘While we’re here, let’s have a little break.’ Then he got the flu bug, then he went downhill from there. He was feeling better and we got to Vegas Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning he was in a coma in the hospital.”

Now she’s just trying to get him home, she said.

Makkonen has been a fixture in Haines Junction for decades. He has often been recognized for his work with search and rescue.

In 1996 he received a commissioner’s award for bravery after rescuing four Austrian tourists stranded on Mount Logan in Kluane National Park.

According to a summary from the commissioner’s office, Makkonen had to wear an oxygen mask as he guided the helicopter in the thin air, “casting a 25-metre cable down and hauling the climbers to safety.”

The group had about 20 minutes left before they would have died.

Darling said Haines Junction residents have already stepped up to help.

“The community has responded tremendously,” she said.

A bank account has been set up to collect donations. The Scotia Bank account number is 709200524085. Make cheques payable to “For the benefit of Douglas Makkonen.”

This account is being administered by Bill and Marinka Darling, P.O. Box 5322 Haines Junction, Yukon, Y0B 1L0. Cheques can be mailed or dropped off at Mile Post 1020 Alaska Hwy, 5 km north of Haines Junction, past the pullout, first house on the right.

For more information call: 867-634-2266 or 867-335-9714 or email Darlingmarinka@hotmail.com

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com