Two dead, one missing, and one survives boat swamping

by Angela Denning-Barnes on September 25, 2013

Two people are confirmed dead and a third is believed to have died in a boating incident on the Lower Yukon River near Alakanuk. The deceased have been identified as 29-year-old Daniel Noble and 50-year-old Cyril Murphy. Presumed dead is 24-year-old Stanton Sheldon, who is still being sought by searchers. There was one survivor, John Chikigak, age 21. All four men are from the village of Nunam Iqua south of Alakanuk on the Bering Sea coast.

The incident happened at about 6 p.m. Monday, 10 miles downriver from Alakanuk.

Troopers responded from the Saint Mary’s post.

Megan Peters, spokeswoman for the troopers, says so far they only know what Chikigak has been able to tell them. The four men had all been traveling in the same boat.

“According to him, there was a crack in the boat and it had filled up with some water and they had been attempting to bail the water out and when it wasn’t working they decided to pull the drain plug on it and attempt to plane the boat,” Peters says. “So, the water would go out as the boat was planing and that is something that can work however, the motor that they had on the skiff wasn’t strong enough to accomplish this. So, instead of emptying the water out, it became swamped.”

Chikigak says he was able to swim to shore after taking off a lot of his clothing. He survived the night and was picked up the following day by boaters.

The incident was first noticed around noon Tuesday by boaters who came across a body on the river bank. They found a second person who was dead floating in the water. Both people had been wearing their life jackets.

Several local volunteers are out in their boats today helping in the search effort to find Shelton.

Peters says local search volunteers are always appreciated.

“Anytime we have a search and rescue going on out in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, we have found that people in the communities really come together,” Peters says.

Over a dozen boats started searching this morning at about 9 a.m.

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