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Troopers: Missing 17-year-old fisherman's body found on Ugashik River

Jerzy Shedlock

Alaska State Troopers say they've located and recovered the body of a 17-year-old fisherman missing since Sunday morning. Troopers found the body of Casey Burt with the help of a village public safety officer during low tide at 6:20 p.m. on Tuesday.

The teenager went missing in the waters of the Ugashik River near the remote town of Pilot Point on the northern coast of the Alaska Peninsula when the skiff from which he and three others had been commercial fishing overturned and threw them overboard.

Troopers said winds in the area were estimated at 25 mph with stronger gusts, and waves were cresting at 4 feet.

Troopers spokesperson Tim DeSpain said waves that high are considered "pretty rough with the winds," and the fishermen were out on the river alone when the boat overturned. The skiff they were operating was 30 feet long and had a 150-horsepower motor, he said.

DeSpain said the men were gillnetting near the mouth of the river for sockeye salmon.

Forty-seven-year-old Earnest Pierce of Nine Mile Falls, Wash., and Brandon Michael Park, 24, of West Richland, Wash., were able to climb atop the overturned boat; they were later rescued by people operating other fishing boats.

Sterling resident Anthony Voss, 38, and Burt tried to swim to shore. Voss was located in the river and was unresponsive, and efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, troopers reported.

Burt's body was discovered after about four days of search efforts a half-mile upriver from where the skiff overturned, troopers reported Wednesday. DeSpain said local residents helped search for the teenager, too.

His body is being taken to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Anchorage.

The Spokane, Wash., Spokesman-Review newspaper reports Burt was from Nine Mile Falls, Wash. He attended Lakeside High School and was on the soccer team there, according to TV station KREM in Washington. Those who knew Burt said he was also involved with the local Young Life chapter, KREM reported.

Kenai Peninsula-based newspaper Peninsula Clarion reported Voss was part of a tight-knit group of bartenders who worked at three Soldotna bars. It was the Oregon native's first year returning to commercial fishing; the Clarion reported that he spent several years recovering from carpal tunnel surgery. Friends told the Clarion that Voss had a fatherly demeanor and an infectious laugh.

Troopers say none of the fishermen were wearing personal flotation devices when their skiff overturned.

Reach Jerzy Shedlock at jerzy@alaskadispatch.com.

 


By JERZY SHEDLOCK
jerzy@alaskadispatch.com