Chugiak teen to receive Spirit of Youth award for helping save brother

Friday, March 29, 2019 - 11:29
  • Michael Wheatley, right, and his brother Tristan pose for a photo following an awards presentation Oct. 24, 2018 in Chugiak. Michael Wheatley will receive a Spirit of Youth Award on March 30 for helping save his brother, who suffered a freak accident while the two were roughhousing in September, 2018. (Star file photo / Matt Tunseth)

A Chugiak teen credited with helping to save his brother’s life after a freak accident will be recognized with a Spirit of Youth “Lifesaver” award during a ceremony March 30 at the Anchorage Downtown Marriott.

Michael and Tristan Wheatley were home alone on Sept. 28, 2018, when the two teens started roughhousing. Michael punched Tristan in the chest, which caused his older brother to immediately collapse.

“Immediately it hit me that he was dead,” Michael recalled later.

After calling 911, Michael started performing CPR on his brother. It was that quick reaction and subsequent response by paramedics with the Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department that saved Tristan’s life. According to the boys’ parents, Tristan suffered an injury called “commotio cordis,” which causes the heart to stop when it’s struck directly by a sharp blow at exactly the right (or wrong) time.

“From dispatch recognizing on the phone and helping Michael, to us getting there and doing what we did, and us transporting him to the hospital, all of those things fell into place that day,” CVFRD chief Tim Benningfield said last year.

Michael Wheatley will be awarded a college savings account scholarship account from the University of Alaska College Savings Plan.

The Spirit of Youth Awards are in their 21st year of highlighting “dedicated young people and unsung heroes from around Alaska,” according to a press release about Wheatley’s award.

“Spirit of Youth is a statewide organization working to unite Alaskans of all ages to promote positive youth development and increase resiliency and connectedness in Alaska’s youth,” reads the release. “By working within the community, Spirit of Youth links adults and youth in healthy supportive relationships and creates opportunities for community engagement across the state.”

The ceremony will be held at 7 p.m. For more information, visit Spirit of Youth online at

Read the original story about the incident and rescue here.

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