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Alaska News

Two killed in Utqiagvik’s first fatal whaling accident in nearly 20 years

  • Author: Zaz Hollander
  • Updated: October 8, 2018
  • Published October 8, 2018

A whaling captain and a crew member from Utqiagvik died Sunday as they towed a whale back from a hunt, according to local media reports.

The names of the dead were not officially released Monday.

A spokesman for the North Slope Borough released a statement saying no additional information would be available "until all the facts are gathered and all family members have been notified."

The Arctic Sounder newspaper reported Monday that the accident occurred when the men's boat flipped in rough water as the crew towed a whale to shore.

Others whalers in the area said about a dozen other boats rushed to help, the paper reported. They pulled a few of the capsized crew members to safety, but couldn't get the two men out of the water in time.

The accident has devastated Utqiagvik and its tight-knit whaling community in the midst of the fall whaling season that just started.

Social media messages Sunday and Monday morning expressed grief, prayers and condolences to the families of both whalers as well as sharing fond memories of their legacies.

The deaths mark the first fatal whaling incident in almost 20 years, according to North Slope Borough spokesman D.J. Fauske.

North Slope Borough Mayor Harry K. Brower Jr. — himself a member of a prominent whaling family — issued a statement Monday afternoon asking the media to respect the wishes of the whaling community and Whaling Captains of Utqiagvik in not releasing more information.

"I hope you understand this as we all know tragedy and sacrifice have no boundaries, and people shouldn't die doing what they love out on the sea but try and take comfort in knowing, to some, it's a peaceful blessing or perhaps homecoming," Brower said. "Rest in peace and God bless the North Slope and the families involved in this tragedy."