Alaska News

‘Catastrophic steering system failure’ caused fatal boating accident near Sitka, troopers say

Alaska Wildlife Troopers say “catastrophic steering system failure” was the cause of a boating accident that threw two people from a skiff, killing one, in Southeast Alaska last week.

Wildlife Troopers and Alaska State Troopers in Sitka were notified around 12:30 p.m. April 9 of two people thrown from a 17-foot skiff near Lisianski Point in the area of the Starrigavan Boat Launch, troopers said in an online report.

Theodosy Merculief, a 41-year-old Sitka resident, was transported to Mt. Edgecumbe Medical Center, where he was declared dead, troopers said. He died from a combination of hypothermia and drowning, according to a preliminary investigation from the medical examiner.

Troopers said they deployed a vessel to retrieve the skiff around 1:22 p.m. the day of the accident. During an inspection of the vessel after it was removed from the water, one of the steering cables was found broken, according to troopers.

Troopers said Merculief was the only occupant of the skiff wearing a personal flotation device when the incident occurred.