Missing Craig hunter's body found in canal

Zaz Hollander

A boater in Behm Canal on Thursday found the body of a Craig hunter missing since Sept. 15, ending a search that started on Sunday, Alaska State Troopers said.

Garrett Hagen, 24, was hunting with 51-year-old Adrian Knopps of Grand Ledge, Mich., when the two hunters got separated.

Knopps survived a seven-day ordeal in cold, rainy weather with no survival gear and two or three protein bars, according to a Michigan newspaper account from family members. He was rescued on Sunday, severely hypothermic but alive.

Searchers looking for Hagen combed the canal and the area around Chickamin River where the men were hunting, troopers said. The area is located about 35 miles northeast of Ketchikan, at the edge of the wilderness of Misty Fiords National Monument.

Just after noon Thursday, a boater found Hagen's body in the canal near Fox Point, about 30 miles south of the river mouth. He was wearing a life vest, though it didn't look properly secured, troopers said.

The Alaska State Medical Examiner Office will conduct an autopsy. Troopers say no foul play is suspected.

Hagen and Knopps embarked on a seven-day hunting trip Sept. 14, family members told troopers. They got a bear the next day.

Knopps last saw Hagen ferrying 600 to 700 pounds of bear meat in a 7-foot skiff with a kayak in tow, troopers said in a dispatch Friday morning. Hagen was bound for the fishing vessel Abundance, anchored two to three miles from shore at the mouth of the Chickamin River. Hagen loaded the animal's hide onto the kayak because it was too heavy to put in the skiff, family members told the Lansing State Journal newspaper. Then he pushed off for the Abundance.

Knopps waited on shore for Hagen to return and pick him up but he never did. Knopps was left stranded, with no survival gear, for the next seven days, troopers said.

A sightseeing cruise vessel at 3:30 a.m. Sunday found the 44-foot Abundance adrift in the canal, near Burroughs Bay, and notified authorities. The U.S. Coast Guard picked up Knopps that day and flew him to PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center where he was treated for severe hypothermia, troopers said.

The blue kayak Hagen was towing washed up in Burroughs Bay but searchers found no other sign of him until Thursday.

Knopps' mother told the Lansing State Journal that her son survived on water from a nearby stream and a few protein bars. He climbed into a tree as protection from wolves. That's where the Coast Guard found him Sunday, Knopps' mother said: exhausted and clinging to the tree.

She said her son planned to stay in Alaska to be with Hagen's family until the end of the month.




Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com or 257-4317.