Two Drown After Boat Sinks in Tustumena Lake
by Abby Hancock 4:03 a.m. AKDT, June 5, 2011
Two people drowned in Tustumena Lake after the boat they were on became swamped with water and sank Friday night, said Beth Ipsen, Alaska State Trooper spokeswoman. Soldotna troopers received a phone call at 4:38 p.m. Saturday about boating debris that was found in the lake. From information found in a cooler in the water, troopers discovered that the group of five had left Friday night to spend the weekend at a cabin near Pipe Creek.
U.S Fish and Wildlife and Alaska Wildlife Troopers launched an aerial and water search for the missing people. Ipsen said the officials found the body of 16 year-old Katarina Anderson of Kenai at about 7:12 p.m., and the body of a 47 year-old male, Ashley Udelhoven of Kenai, about 15 minutes later.
According to Ipsen, one of the search planes was flagged down by three survivors who had made it to shore after swimming two miles. Udelhoven's daughters 13 year-old Hanna Udelhoven and 15 year-old Miranda Udelhoven, along with their friend, 12 year-old Athena Robinson of Sterling, were seen by rescuers in the search plane at about 10:15 p.m.
The survivors told officials that all five of them were on board the boat and were trying to cross the lake, but windy conditions and high waves led to the 18-foot aluminum boat taking on water, and they were forced to abandon it. Ipsen said all of them were wearing life jackets, but Anderson's was too large for her. Ashley Udelhoven tried to help Anderson, but neither of them made it back to shore, said Ipsen.
"Her life vest was a little too big for her so she started struggling with it and having problems so Ashley tried to help her. He started swimming and dragging her," said Ipsen.
The three survivors told troopers they made it to shore at about 3 a.m. Saturday. Ipsen said the girls stayed on the shore until after 7 a.m., when they decided to head to a nearby cabin. After the girls were found that night, they were taken to Peninsula Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.