Army National Guard sergeant drowns in Copper River

Copper River near Chitina (Wikimedia Commons image)

A Delta Junction man died over the weekend after he slipped while dipnetting on the banks of the Copper River near Chitina and was swept away by the swift current.

Alaska State Troopers say they got a report around 1 a.m. Saturday that 35-year-old Russell Hepler had fallen into the river and drowned.

A Trooper news release issued Saturday says Hepler’s body was later recovered. There were no signs of foul play, and an investigation into the incident continues.

The Alaska Army National Guard says Hepler was a sergeant first class with the 49th Missile Defense Battalion’s Military Police Company at Fort Greely. Guard officials say the battalion has scheduled a memorial service for Hepler to be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Fort Greely chapel.