Alaska State Troopers say one fisherman has died and a 17-year-old has gone missing in the waters of the Ugashik River after a skiff with four occupants capsized amid winds and 4-foot waves.
Troopers’ Helo 3 and a Kodiak-based U.S. Coast Guard helicopter responded to an area of the river not far from Pilot Point, located on the northern coast of the Alaska Peninsula, around 9 a.m. on Sunday. Troopers had received a call about an overturned skiff and four people in the water, according to a Monday trooper dispatch.
A preliminary investigation revealed four commercial fishermen were fishing from the skiff when it overturned, throwing them all into the river. Troopers say winds in the area were estimated at 25 miles per hour “with stronger gusts” and waves were cresting at 4 feet.
Troopers’ spokesperson Tim DeSpain said waves that high are considered “pretty rough with the winds,” and the fishermen were out on the river alone when the boat overturned. The skiff they were operating was 30 feet long and had a 150-horsepower motor, he said.
Forty-seven-year-old Earnest Pierce of Nine Mile Falls, Wash. and Brandon Michael Park, 24, of West Richland, Wash. were able to climb atop the overturned boat; they were later rescued by people operating other fishing boats, according to troopers.
An unidentified adult male and the 17-year-old reportedly tried to swim to shore.
“The older male was later located in the water and was unresponsive,” troopers reported in the dispatch. The Coast Guard reported a good Samaritan found the body. “Efforts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful.”
Troopers say search initial efforts to locate the teenager in the area were unsuccessful. Troopers and Alaska Wildlife troopers continue searching while the Coast Guard has suspended its efforts.
None of the fishermen were wearing personal flotation devices when their skiff overturned.
“Even in the warmer summer months, preparedness is vital to ensure a safe outing on Alaska’s waters,” said Paul Webb, a Coast Guard 17th District command center search and rescue mission coordinator, in a prepared statement. “File a float plan, carry reliable communications equipment, and always wear a lifejacket.”
Troopers are not identifying the victims as they’re still attempting to reach next of kin, DeSpain said.