Anchorage man reported dead near Whittier when boat sinks, Coast Guard still searching for another

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 1:31 PM AKST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2021 at 4:04 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The U.S. Coast Guard has recovered the body of one boater from Anchorage and are currently searching for another man from Dillingham near Whittier.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Melissa McKenzie told Alaska’s News Source that the Coast Guard received a report Wednesday at 6 p.m. from Cordova Police that a 20-foot skiff was taking on water approximately five minutes from Whittier Harbor. According to an online report by the Alaska State Troopers, they were notified shortly before 6 p.m. that a vessel was sinking near Whitter.

The body of 28-year-old Anchorage resident Stefan Weingarth was found Wednesday night, and the Coast Guard is still searching for 28-year-old Luki Akelkok of Dillingham.

According to troopers, two boats carrying two people each were on their way back to Whittier from a hunting trip on Esther Island in Prince William Sound. The first boat made it back to Whittier on Wednesday afternoon, but the other boat, carrying Akelkok and Weingarth, encountered inclement weather.

“At 5:53 pm, Weingarth contacted the other boat operator who was already en route back to Anchorage to report the bow of their vessel was underwater, they were 5 minutes outside of Whittier, and they were sinking,” troopers wrote in their report.

Shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday night, the Coast Guard found one person wearing a life jacket dead in the water about 5 miles northeast of Whittier in Passage Canal, near Trinity Point, troopers wrote. The person found dead has been tentatively identified as Weingarth, according to troopers.

“We recovered the overturned skiff about six nautical miles from Whittier,” McKenzie said Thursday. “We had one unresponsive person recovered and currently we are hoping for the best result possible for the second individual. We currently have Coast Guard Cutter Mustang on scene and we have an air crew — an MH 60 aircrew from Kodiak — on scene doing search patterns in the area. We don’t really have great conditions on scene, unfortunately they are combating like two- to three-foot seas and freezing spray with whiteout snow conditions and like up to 60 mph winds.”

Weingarth’s remains have been sent to the State Medical Examiner in Anchorage.

The two men were in a 20-foot aluminum skiff, according to troopers. On its way back to Whittier, the boat was also carrying four deer and two seals.

“On-scene weather at the time was described by the witness as seas of 6 feet with white caps on top of the waves, winds blowing 40 knots, and dark skies,” troopers wrote.

The rescue response from the Coast Guard was hampered by the poor weather conditions, according to the troopers’ report, and conditions continue to be severe as of Thursday afternoon. Winds continue to blow 50-60 knots, troopers said.

The search for Akelkok is continuing, and Alaska Wildlife Troopers have also gone to Whittier to help, as well as a U.S. Coast Guard cutter from Seward and a Coast Guard helicopter from Kodiak.

Akelkok is considered a missing person and all next of kin have been notified, troopers said.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include additional information.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct that the body of Stefan Weingarth was found by the Coast Guard on Wednesday night. Information from a Coast Guard spokesperson initially indicated the body had been found Thursday morning.

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