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Location: Whittier
Type: Search & Rescue, Missing Person

Dispatch Text:

UPDATE: On 12-04-21, the owner of the vessel involved with the initial SAR and other family members of Luki Akelkok III responded to Whittier to help locate and retrieve the vessel that capsized on 12-01-21. At approximately 1210 hours, those same persons located the vessel in Logging Camp Bay, which is located approximately 9 miles northeast of Whittier. Approximately 30 minutes later, the remains of missing person / boater - Luki Akelkok III, was found approximately 200 yards from the vessel and offshore in 2 feet of water. At the time of the body recovery, Luki was not observed to be wearing a PFD. It appears the body of Luki drifted approximately 5 miles before coming to rest.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers responded to conduct a follow up investigation and the body of Luki is being transported to Anchorage per the request of the State Medical Examiner’s Office. Luki’s next of kin and the USCG have been advised of the recovery.

On 12-01-21 at 1848 hours, MatCom dispatch contacted AST to report a vessel was sinking near Whittier.  Further investigation revealed a group of 2 vessels with 2 persons onboard each vessel had been hunting deer on Esther Island in Prince William Sound and were returning separately to Whittier on Wednesday afternoon. 

One of the vessels arrived in Whittier at approximately 3:30 pm.  The other vessel, a 20-foot aluminum Lund skiff operated by Luki Akelkok (age 28 of Dillingham) with passenger Stefan Weingarth (age 28 of Anchorage), and 4 deer and 2 seals on board, encountered inclement weather conditions on the way back to Whittier. 

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.  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.  USCG D17 Juneau and USCG Sector Anchorage were contacted, and they immediately coordinated a multi SAR platform response utilizing a vessel and aircraft from Valdez, however, their response was slowed down due to bad weather while en route to the scene. 

On 12-01-21 at 10:13 pm, the USCG reported 1 unidentified person was located deceased and wearing a life jacket approximately 5 miles northeast of Whittier in Passage Canal, near Trinity Point.  In addition, the missing vessel was located, and 1 person was still missing and unaccounted for.  The USCG continued to remain on scene and resume the search. On 12-02-21 at 03:10 am, Whittier PD met with USCG vessel crews to receive and tentatively identify the recovered remains as Stefan Weingarth.  The remains are being transported to the SMEO in Anchorage.  SAR efforts continued to be hampered with severe weather conditions as winds are blowing 50-60 knots.  AWT Troopers have responded to Whittier to assist with the search.  A USCG cutter from Seward has also responded and is on scene.  In addition, a USCG helo from Kodiak is anticipated to assist as well. Luki Akelkok remains a missing person.  All next of kin have been notified and the search for Luki Akelkok continues.

The Alaska State Troopers wish to thank the USCG, their aircraft, and boat crews for their response and valiant efforts.  In addition, AST wishes to thank Whittier PD for their assistance. 

Posted on 12/2/2021 1:01:31 PM by DPS\etolsen

Posting Section: Headquarters