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In separate incidents, boaters found dead in Western Alaska

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published October 2, 2014

Alaska State Troopers are investigating two separate incidents in which boaters were found dead Tuesday in Western Alaska.

The first report came in to troopers around 10:45 a.m. An abandoned skiff was found on the Kuskokwim River near Oscarville, a village of about 60 people six miles southwest of Bethel, troopers said.

When the skiff was first reported, troopers wrote in an online dispatch, "No one had been reported missing nor overdue."

Meanwhile, Nikita Petluska's girlfriend told a friend that Petluska had not returned home after checking his nets on Monday. The friend went out to search for Petluska on Tuesday and found the 54-year-old's body floating in Oscarville Slough, on the other side of the sandbar from where his skiff was found, said troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters.

It's unclear how Petluska died, Peters said. Troopers found alcohol on Petluska's skiff and suspect it may have been involved in his death, though a toxicology test will make the final determination, Peters said.

His body was sent to the State Medical Examiner Office in Anchorage for autopsy.

At 6:53 p.m. Tuesday, a second body was found by wood collectors traveling down the Johnson River, a tributary of the Kuskokwim River. They came upon a partially submerged skiff and spotted a body on a bank nearby, Peters said.

A village public safety officer traveled to the scene from Nunapitchuk, a community about 22 miles northwest of Bethel, to secure the scene until troopers could arrive. Troopers from Bethel flew in on a helicopter Wednesday morning and located the body of 41-year-old Andrew Pavilla of Atmautluak, troopers said.

Troopers determined Pavilla was traveling on the skiff at a high speed when he crashed into a bank. Peters said pieces of the skiff were thrown and scattered onto the bank. There were indications that Pavilla was alive immediately after the crash, she said.

As far as how he died, she said, "whether it was exposure or injuries, we don't know."

Pavilla's body was also sent to the State Medical Examiner Office for autopsy.

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