A Juneau man who was reported missing this week drowned several days earlier when his kayak overturned in a lake at the terminus of Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska State Troopers said.
Troopers were notified on July 11 that someone had found an unoccupied kayak on Mendenhall Lake, the agency said in an online report Tuesday. Troopers responded to the lake and took possession of the kayak and a dry bag attached to it. The person who made the report told authorities they didn’t see anyone in the vicinity of the kayak and that they had towed it to shore, troopers said in the statement.
On Sunday, the Juneau Police Department reported to troopers that 43-year-old Paul Jose Rodriguez Jr. was believed to have gone missing in the area of the glacier. According to a statement from Juneau police, that agency received a report Sunday from U.S. Forest Service employees who said that a vehicle had been in the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center parking lot since July 11.
Juneau police confirmed that the vehicle belonged to Rodriguez, they said, and they learned that he had last been seen by his roommate on July 10. Rodriguez had also made a social media post on July 11 that showed a kayak on a beach, Juneau police said.
Alaska Wildlife Troopers and Juneau search and rescue groups began looking for Rodriguez in the area of the lake and shoreline Monday morning, troopers said. During that search, a person turned over a helmet and a GoPro recording device to authorities, troopers said. The person had found the helmet and GoPro on the shore of Mendenhall Lake on a different day from when the kayak was discovered, troopers spokesperson Tim DeSpain said Tuesday.
Troopers said they determined the GoPro belonged to Rodriguez, and a review of its footage showed that the man had drowned when his kayak overturned on the lake. Troopers believe he wasn’t wearing a flotation device at the time, they said.
DeSpain said via email Tuesday there wasn’t probable cause to initiate a search when the kayak was found because no one had been reported missing and there was no sign of anyone in distress in the area.
“Found property is a very common occurrence, especially where items can float away from shore,” DeSpain wrote.
Rodriguez’s next of kin have been notified, troopers said, and the search for his body will continue.