Troopers identify lone survivor, victims of Yukon River boating accident

Zaz Hollander

Alaska State Troopers said one man survived a boat accident on the Yukon River that killed two others and left a third man missing and presumed dead.

The survivor of the accident near Alakanuk is John Chikigak, 21, of Nunam Iqua, troopers said. They identified the two men found dead by another boater as Daniel Noble, 29, and Cyril Murphy, 50. Still missing is Stanton Shelton, 24.

The three were also from Nunam Iqua, troopers said.

Chikigak told troopers the men were traveling from Emmonak toward their home village in a 18-foot Lund skiff when the boat started taking on water from a cracked hull around 6 p.m. Monday, troopers Sgt. Aaron Mobley said. The men tried to bail out the water but then decided to pull the drain plug and drive the boat fast enough to increase its plane, letting the water clear out of the drain.

"The boat didn't have enough horsepower," Mobley said. "They swamped the boat almost instantly and it sank real fast."

Chikigak told troopers he made it to shore after stripping off most of his clothes.

Passing boaters found him around noon Tuesday. They also came upon one of the deceased men along the river bank and found the second man floating in the river. Both were wearing life jackets, the boaters told troopers.

Chikigak was treated at the local clinic and released, troopers said. Search efforts were called off Tuesday night due to high winds and blowing snow. Search efforts eight miles downriver from Alakanuk resumed Wednesday morning.

Between five and 10 boats from Alakanuk and Nunam Iqua were out Wednesday looking for Shelton, said Mobley, who supervises troopers posts at St. Marys and Emmonak.

The place the boat sank is near the place a southern branch of the Yukon opens toward the open water of the Bering Sea.

"You almost go out into the inlet," Mobley said. "You've got to make a hard left to get into Nunam."

Nunam Iqua, a village of about 200 people at the river's mouth, has been hit hard by tragedy this year. A fire on June 28 killed three people, including an 8-year-old child. The next month, a 19-year-old village resident was charged with murder for starting the fire.

Reach Zaz Hollander at or 257-4317.