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9/26/2013
Two dead, one missing in rural boating

By DAN JOLING

Associated Press

ANCHORAGE — Two men from a small Alaska village died and a third is missing after their boat swamped and sank in the Yukon River.

Alaska State Troopers said Wednesday a fourth man was able to swim to shore Monday night. He spent a cold night on the riverbank and was found Tuesday.

All four were from Nunam Iqua, a village of 200 people about 500 miles northwest of Anchorage on a south fork of the Yukon River.

The bodies of Daniel Noble, 29, and Cyril Murphy, 50, were recovered Tuesday about 10 miles downriver from Alakanuk, a village 162 miles northwest of Bethel.

Missing is Stanton Shelton, 24.

John Chikigak, 21, was able to reach shore. He was treated at a village clinic and released.

The men’s 18-foot skiff had an existing crack in the hull, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said by email, and when the boat slowed on the river Monday night, water began to seep in.

Chikigak told an investigator that the men attempted to bail but decided to try to keep the water from coming in by planing — applying power to lift the hull, which allows water in a boat to drain out as it skims over the surface.

The men pulled the drain plug and applied power, but the motor on the boat was not strong enough to plane the boat, and it swamped and sank at about 6 p.m.

Chikigak told troopers he pulled off most of his clothing and swam for shore.

Other boaters Tuesday found one of the dead men in the river and another along the riverbank. Chikigak was found at about noon and taken to the clinic.

Strong wind and blowing snow Tuesday night hampered efforts to find Shelton, and searchers suspended their efforts. The search resumed at 9 a.m. Wednesday and focused on an area 8 miles downriver from Alakanuk.

Hunting is common this time of year along the river, Peters said, but she did not know if the men in the boat were on a hunting trip.