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Second hunter found dead days after boat capsized near Whittier

Sabine Poux/KDLL

UPDATE Dec. 5:

Alaska State Troopers said they located the body of Luki Akelkok, ending a multi-day search and rescue effort for the 28-year-old Dillingham man that was hindered by bad weather.

Aklelkok's family and the boat's owner were in Whittier Saturday to retrieve the vessel that capsized Wednesday, leaving 28-year-old Anchorage man Stefan Weingarth dead and Akelkok missing. The two men had been returning to Whittier from a hunt on Esther Island.

Around noon, they found the boat about nine miles northeast of Whittier, an updated trooper statement said. Thirty minutes later and about 200 yards from the vessel, they found Akelkok's remains in two feet of water.

Akelkok was not wearing a personal flotation device when he was found, according to the statement. Troopers said his body had drifted about five miles before coming to rest.

His body was transported to the State Medical Examiner Office in Anchorage.

Original story:

A Dillingham man is still missing after his boat sank off the coast of Whittier on Wednesday, leaving his passenger dead.

Twenty-eight-year-old Luki Akelkok, of Dillingham, has been listed as a missing person, according to Tim DeSpain with the state’s Department of Public Safety. He said the U.S. Coast Guard suspended their search and rescue efforts Thursday at 10 p.m. amid difficult weather conditions, but they’ll continue their search when weather improves.

Akelkok has been missing since Wednesday. Troopers said he and 28-year old Stefan Weingarth, of Anchorage, were on their way back to Whittier after a deer hunt on Esther Island when they came across bad weather.

Troopers said the men were part of a group of four hunters returning on two boats Wednesday afternoon. One of the boats arrived in Whittier around 3:30 Wednesday.

Almost two and a half hours later, Weingarth, passenger in the 20-foot aluminum Lund skiff, called the other boat to report the bow of the boat was underwater and he and Akelkok were sinking. The boat had four deer and two seals on board, according to troopers. 

The trooper statementsaid witnesses reported “seas of 6 feet with whitecaps on top of the waves, winds blowing 40 knots, and dark skies.”

Coast Guard from Juneau and Anchorage were contacted and coordinated response with vessels from Valdez.

But their response was delayed due to bad weather. Around 10 that night, the Coast Guard found Weingarth dead in a life jacket about five miles northeast of Whittier. Coast Guard also found the missing vessel.

DeSpain said search and rescue efforts for Akelkok have been hindered by windy conditions and heavy freezing spray. But he said searching will continue as weather improves.

DeSpain did not have an update on the search Saturday morning.

Sabine Poux is a producer and reporter for the Brave Little State podcast of Vermont Public. She was formerly news director and evening news host at KDLL in Kenai.

Originally from New York, Sabine has lived and reported in Argentina and Vermont and Kenai.
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