One man is dead and another missing after their skiff sinks near Whittier

Boats at a dock.
Whittier. (Alaska Public Media file photo)

An Anchorage man is dead and a Dillingham man is missing after their boat sank Wednesday night on Prince William Sound near Whittier, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Troopers say 28-year-old Stefan Weingarth of Anchorage and 28-year-old Luki Akelkok III of Dillingham were coming back from a hunting trip on Esther Island when they encountered bad weather.

The two were traveling in a 20-foot aluminum skiff, along with four deer and two seals from their hunt. They had been hunting with another group of two people who were traveling in a separate boat. That boat got back to Whittier around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, according to troopers.

Shortly before 6 p.m., troopers say, Weingarth contacted the other group to report that they were five minutes outside of Whittier and sinking. The boat’s bow was underwater.

According to troopers, witnesses said seas were up to six feet tall with white caps at the peak of the waves and winds blowing at 40 knots.

The U.S Coast Guard based in Juneau and Anchorage were contacted and immediately sent a vessel and aircraft from Valdez, but the bad weather slowed them down on their way to the hunters.

Troopers said the Coast Guard found Weingarth’s body at 10:13 p.m. Wednesday with a life jacket on, five miles northeast of Whittier, in Passage Canal near Trinity Point. The skiff was also located. Akelkok was not found.

The search was expanded to include Alaska Wildlife Troopers in Whittier, a Coast Guard cutter from Seward and a helicopter out of Kodiak.

But bad weather, including high winds, hampered search efforts Thursday and Friday. The U.S. Coast Guard ended its search Thursday night. Troopers were monitoring weather conditions Friday afternoon and planned to resume their search when weather improved, said an agency spokesman. 

Contact the author at tyler@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200

Alaska Public Media’s Tegan Hanlon contributed to this report.

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