Derek Russell, a Hollis Center native and member of the Coast Guard, died Dec. 22, 2012 after a hiking accident in Kodiak, Alaska. He was 20 years old.
Russell was a fireman aboard Coast Guard Cutter Munro. FN Russell left the base in Kodiak around 10 a.m. Dec. 22 to hike the nearby Barometer Mountain. Coast Guard crews along with other rescuers committed hours to searching for him after he did not return to base. Offiicals say FN Russell slipped on a trail, fell more than 500 feet and died instantly. His remains were recovered three days later, on Christmas Day.
Russell attended Master’s House School at the New Life Christian Fellowship in Biddeford. He then attended Biddeford High School for two years, where he excelled at soccer and track. He left Biddeford High after his sophomore year to attend Calvary Chapel Christian Academy in Orrington. He graduated in 2011. Following graduation, Russell spent three months in Italy with his sister and uncle. His mother joined them in Italy for the last three weeks of their vacation. The family hiked extensively. Soon after, Russell left for the Coast Guard training center at Cape May, N.J. He graduated in late February.
He was assigned to the Munro in Kodiak in March. He was a fireman on the ship and worked in the engine room. His mother said he intended to make a career in the Coast Guard.
“He chose the Coast Guard because he felt a very strong desire to be close to home so he could protect it. He wanted to be right here.”
FN Russell is remembered as a “cool and easy-going guy,” who stood out among his peers for his sensitivity and kindness. His faith in God was very important to him. He is remembered by his family for his love of the outdoors and his passion for life. He was a bit of a risk-taker, who thought nothing of diving from the cliffs at Indian Cellar into the Saco River.
In addition to his mother, Russell is survived by his father, David and Josiah Bruns and Eliza Hennessey. FN Russell had a close bond with his sister Mercedes, who was his best friend.