PORT JERVIS – Three friends, a fishing boat, and time together in Alaska. This exact scenario was not new to Michael (Mickey) Anthony Hunt, Sr., of Milford, PA, who enjoyed spending time with family and friends at his rural Alaskan home. It was the setting for the three men when tragedy suddenly struck, just before their planned trip home.
Hunt had spent several weeks at his home in Yakutat, Alaska, with Richard (Dick) Kowal of Port Jervis, NY and Douglas W. Koehn of Courtland, VA. Hunt, Kowal and Koehn were among the estimated 17,000 fishing enthusiasts who travel to the small village of 600 Yakutat each year to fish for “silver” coho salmon and “rainbow trout” during this period. the year.
The three were fishing on the Situk River in Alaska on Friday morning, September 24. As they were navigating the narrow, winding, log-filled waterway near Yakutat, their boat tipped over in a typical river jam. Koehn was in the middle of the boat and able to break free. He was attempting to swim and call for help when spotted by boaters and rescued. Hunt and Kowal, who had found themselves trapped below the surface, lost their lives.
Yakutat Police Chief James Capra said his department received a report of a boating accident involving three people during high water in the Situk River last Friday morning. He said two men in another boat attempted to free Hunt, trapped beside the boat, but were unable to extract him. He was recovered later that morning, about two and a half hours after entering the water. The boat was also removed from the ice jam and the river.
“A second boat found Mr. Koehn down the river and took him nine miles into town. It was cold and wet but not badly injured, ”Capra said. “Sir. Koehn told us that he had been in the middle of the boat and was able to break free and try to swim for help, but quickly realized that the water was too cold.
Kowal was found behind an ice jam downstream around 4.30am Monday.
“We used underwater cameras, probes and other research means, but until the water level and flow went down we couldn’t find it,” Capra said. . “I had planned to call search dogs, just as he was located.”
Capra said it has been raining hard for the past few days, suddenly causing the water level to rise, drain faster and become much more difficult. He said Koehn said they may have misjudged speed and current when trying to turn their boat around on Friday morning.
“It increased overnight to more than double and would have been a completely different experience than the day before,” said Capra. “It went from 500 cubic feet per second to just over 1100 overnight, then dropped back down to 530. It’s not uncommon in September. Once he got back down we were able to find Mr. Kowal.
Capra, who was at the scene all four days of the search and recovery efforts, expressed the deepest sympathies of his department, the mostly volunteer Yakutat rescue team of about 50 people, and the inhabitants of the village. He said many residents of the village, including the owners of fishing lodges, have known Michael Hunt, Sr. for more than 25 years visiting the small, close-knit community.
The Yakutat Department of Public Safety would like to thank the volunteer community, the Alaska Department of Fisheries and Game, the US Forest Service, the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve for their assistance in the recovery Mr. Hunt and Mr. Kowal, ”Capra said. “Sir. Koehn, the Hunt family and the Kowal family have all expressed how much Yakutat means to their families and especially what it means to Michael Hunt, Sr. and Richard Kowal. The Yakutat Public Safety Department sends its more Sincere condolences to the Hunt, Kowal and Koehn families as all three were close friends and frequent visitors to Yakutat.