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Pair dead, another duo injured on Southcentral waterways

Katie Medred
Captain Kevin Wallace, second from left, and others from the Anchorage Fire Department observe the rescue effort for two men on the mudflats. July 6, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Anchorage Fire Department rescuers pull a man from the mudflats ahead of the rising tide. July 6, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
A man is unresponsive moments after being pulled out of the mudflats by Anchorage Fire Department rescuers. July 6, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Anchorage Fire Department medics treat an unresponsive man after pulling him from the mudflats near downtown. July 6, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
A man, barely responsive, is transported to an ambulance after he and his companion were rescued from the mudflats near downtown Anchorage. July 6, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
A man, barely responsive, is transported to an ambulance after he and his companion were rescued from the mudflats near downtown Anchorage. July 6, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
A man, barely responsive, is transported to an ambulance after he and his companion were rescued from the mudflats near downtown Anchorage. July 6, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Anchorage Policewoman Kelly Huston interviews a companion of two men who required rescuing on the mudflats, trying to determine the events leading up to their stranding. July 6, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
A man, barely responsive, is transported to an ambulance after he and his companion were rescued from the mudflats near downtown Anchorage. July 6, 2012
Loren Holmes photo

A tragic Friday on and near the water in Southcentral Alaska left two boaters dead and two teenagers recovering after being pulled off the mudflats off the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail.

It started on Matanuska Lake at about 10 a.m., when a 16-foot red canoe capsized for reasons that remain unclear to Alaska State Troopers. But when rescuers got to the scene, they found Michael Francis, 70, of Pocatello, Idaho, floating in the water about 100 feet offshore.

The canoe was rented to Francis’ brother, Randy Francis of Palmer, who troopers continued to search for late Friday afternoon with divers and cadaver dogs. They presumed he also drowned.

A family first spotted the overturned canoe around 10:30 a.m., according to Beth Ipsen, a spokeswoman for the troopers. The men had rented the boat from a rental company at the lake. The company gives renters personal floatation devices, but it was unclear if the men wore them.

But that wasn't the only trouble on Friday involving Alaska's frigid waters.

Shortly before 6 p.m. Friday, the Anchorage Fire Department responded to a call that some teenagers may be in trouble on the mudflats of Cook Inlet offshore of Elderberry Park.

They pulled two young men off the mudflats, and one of them needed medical attention.

A small group of people was out on the mud when police arrived first. After borrowing a pair of binoculars from an onlooker, officers noted that two members of the group were acting strangely.

The officers watched as one young man tried to help another out of the mud without success. After several tries the first man gave up and retreated back toward the Coastal Trail to find help. The tide -- the second largest in North America -- was coming in.

At that point the Anchorage Fire Department was called to assist with a rescue. The unresponsive male left out in the mud was pulled from the flats and sent to the hospital with a possible case of hypothermia.

Both men are alive, though their names and conditions were not immediately released.

The drownings earlier Friday were the second dual drownings in Southcentral Alaska in less than a month. In June, two brothers from Tennessee drowned on Lake Louise, about a three-hour drive northeast of Anchorage along the Glenn Highway. They had been in a rented motorboat. When the engine was engaged in gear, the boat lurched, causing a 59- year-old man to fall into the water. His younger brother jumped in to help. Neither man survived. 

Drownings are among the top causes of death for Alaskans each year. Far away from Anchorage, where the Yukon River meets the Bering Sea, a 2-year-old died earlier this week in the village of Emmonak. Toddler Charlene Mike was found drowned in the Emmonak slough, suspected of falling in while she and another child were outside playing. 

Contact Katie Medred at katie(at)alaskadispatch.com