Alaska News Nightly: July 9, 2012

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Shell Drill Ship Arrives In Unalaska

Stephanie Joyce, KUCB – Unalaska

One of Shell’s drill ships has arrived in Unalaska and the other is expected by the end of the week. The Noble Discoverer pulled into port on Saturday, accompanied by a small flotilla of support vessels. While the ships were originally scheduled to bypass Unalaska on their way to Arctic, persistent sea ice could keep them around for a while.

Troopers Suspend Search For Missing Mt. Marathon Runner

Wendi Jonassen & Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

The Seward Chamber of Commerce is considering ways to make the Mount Marathon race safer in the wake of two tragedies during this year’s July 4 race. Over the weekend, the State Troopers suspended the search for missing runner Micheal LeMaitre. He was last seen near the top of the race course. And well known mountain runner Matt Kenney remains in an induced coma because of brain swelling at an Anchorage hospital after taking a bad fall near the end of the race. Cindy Clock is executive director of the Seward Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the race. She says the Chamber is not considering canceling Mount Marathon.

Clock says runners have suffered broken bones and heat exhaustion in the past. And the two incidents during this year’s race are by far the worst in Mount Marathon’s long history. She has been fielding suggestions over the past several days about how to make the race safer, including turning around runners who don’t make good time to the half way mark and having volunteers sweep the course.

While the State Troopers have stopped looking for LeMaitre, the Seward Fire Department is continuing the search. Fire Chief Dave Squires says 17 people were on the mountain today. He says all of his theories on what might have happened to LeMaitre have been “blown out of the water.”

Doctors are hoping to bring injured runner Matt Kenney out of his induced coma in a few days, to begin assessing the extent of his brain injury. Kenney also suffered from other injuries, including a compound fracture to his right leg. Brad Precosky is a close friend of Kenney’s and a spokesperson for his family.

Kenny was injured in an especially tricky section of the course that has competitors descending a wet steep rock face. Precosky says Kenney was very familiar with the course and was running the race for the eighth time. Precosky himself is a 20 time Mount Marathon finisher and six-time champion. And he is adamant that the Mount Marathon course shouldn’t change.

Kenney has medical insurance, but with uncovered expenses mounting, the family has set up a Wells Fargo fund to accept donations. It’s called the Matt Kenney donation fund and contributions can be made at any Wells Fargo branch.

King Salmon Man Arrested For Cold Case Murder

Dave Bendinger, KDLG – Dillingham

A King Salmon man is in police custody for a murder case that is nearly three decades old. Authorities believe they will finally close a cold-case that’s haunted a community.

Rescued Beluga Calf Dies

Wendi Jonassen, APRN – Anchorage

The beluga calf that the Alaska SeaLife Center rescued from Naknek Bay has died. The cause of death is unknown, but experts say it’s difficult to keep a neonatal whale alive in captivity.

The baby beluga rescued from Naknek Bay three weeks ago was having trouble processing food from the beginning. It was under 24-hour supervision, by three teams of three caregivers. Then yesterday evening, the three person team noticed he had an elevated heart rate. They brought in three additional experts to try to save the animal, but the calf died late last night. Despite the excitement surrounding the baby beluga’s rescue, Tara Riemer Jones, president of the Alaska SeaLife Center, says they are they weren’t surprised when the calf died.

“The team that was actually working with the animal every day, while they were the closest to the animal, I think they also were the most realistic about its future,” Jones said. “The rest of the staff, I think, probably took the news even harder.”

“Because they wanted to believe so much that this would be successful and it’s just been very difficult when visitors have been coming in and asking how the beluga was doing and having to give them the truth this morning.”

The beluga was only a few days old when it was found in Naknek on June 18. Though belugas can survive for decades as adults in captivity, not much is known about keeping them alive as calves or just after birth. Jones says the team kept that in mind over the last three weeks.

“We were trying to always be careful to say we were being caustically optimistic,” Jones said. “The truth is that the team was really surprised that the animal actually lived this long.”

Jones says the baby beluga found in Naknek three weeks ago was the first neonatal beluga to be rescued in the United States.

“From the very beginning, every day was a win with this animal,” Jones said. “And every day that we learned about caring for a neonatal beluga was really a win for the team.”

In the past three weeks, scientists and veterinarians have been visiting and calling to ask about the beluga. Jones says the center built a vast network of people willing to work on beluga neonatal care. And now, the team, and scientists know more about the whales during this stage in their lives.

“We will now have a better understanding of the intensity of what is required in these situations – what is required logistically to meet the demands of a neonatal beluga calf,” Jones said.

Without much good news coming out of Seward this weekend, Jones is regretting to have to deliver more bad news. They will be conducting a necropsy Monday afternoon.

Tulsequah Chief Mine Water Treatment Plant Shuts Down

Rosemarie Alexandra, KTOO – Juneau

A water treatment plant at the Tulsequah Chief Mine project in British Columbia has been shut down.

Mine owners Chieftain Metals shut off the plant on June 22. The company says it cannot continue spending money on water treatment without any mine income.

Acid Rock Drainage downstream of the mine has long been a concern of Alaskans, though a recent study shows metals concentration remains insignificant in some Taku River fish.

Initial Meetings On APD Shootings Satisfy Polynesian Community Members

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

A public meeting is planned for later this month about recent police shootings in Anchorage. Polynesian Community members say they are satisfied with a preliminary meeting over the shootings Friday. Saturday they held a rally to draw attention to their cause.

Gary Snyder Draws Big Crowd At Creative Writing Lecture

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

The annual Creative Writing talks at the University of Alaska-Anchorage this week kicked off with a celebrity guest – California poet Gary Snyder. His reading at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium drew a large crowd last night.

Eagle Village Elder Dies In Car Accident

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

A well-respected chief from Eagle Village, Alaska was killed in a car accident in Anchorage last week.  Seventy-one-year-old Isaac Juneby was a charismatic man, known for his humor and smile.  Juneby was one of the last Han language speakers.  He recently began a master’s degree focusing on Han regalia.  His wife Sandi says he did not start speaking English until the age of nine.  As a child, she says he wore the traditional clothing of the Han-Athabascan tribe.