Skip to main Content
Rural Alaska

3 men dead after boat swamps near Togiak

  • Author: Chris Klint
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published January 31, 2016

Togiak police say the bodies of three boaters who drowned near the Southwest Alaska community in a Saturday storm have been recovered.

Alaska State Troopers identified the three men who died as Eric Coopchiak, 31; James Toots, 39; and Larry Arnariak, 29. The men, all from Togiak, were returning from a moose hunt when they ran into trouble, troopers reported.

According to Togiak Police Chief Leroy Nanalook, the men placed a call for help from the mouth of the Togiak River at about 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

"(Saturday) they got stranded by the mouth of the river," Nanalook said. "The wind was coming from the east, and they couldn't make it because they had a low boat."

A search effort to find them soon became a recovery, with responders locating the bodies of the men overnight. The U.S. Coast Guard responded with aircraft support, and the bodies of all three men eventually washed ashore, troopers said.

"We retrieved all three of them -- two this morning, and the other one was yesterday evening," Nanalook said Sunday morning.

None of the men were wearing life preservers when the skiff capsized, troopers said.

Michael Kutz, an Anchorage-based meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Saturday's weather near Togiak -- a coastal community of about 875 people, just over 65 miles west of Dillingham -- included "a complex set of lows" over the Bering Sea, which were generating winds at times greater than 50 knots.

"The front is basically lying right off the Bristol Bay area -- and right along with that are clouds, rain, snow and gusty winds in particular," Kutz said.

Capes in the Bristol Bay area can make winds much stronger, with the region's forecast still calling for gusts to 50 knots Sunday.

"Just that little change in the topography helps boost the winds significantly," Kutz said.

For more newsletters click here

Local news matters.

Support independent, local journalism in Alaska.