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    Default tragedy on tustumena lake

    Two Drown After Boat Sinks in Tustumena Lake

    by Abby Hancock 4:03 a.m. AKDT, June 5, 2011


    Anchorage, Alaska—

    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.

    http://www.ktuu.com/news/ktuu-two-dr...,4634633.story

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    I was heading up to the cabin on Saturday and I started finding things in the water over about a 2 mile path. A lifevest, clothes in plastic bags (3 of them). At first I thought it was just light items that flew out of the back of a boat so I picked them up intending to drop them off to whoever on up the lake. There were only 3 or 4 trailers at the boat launch.

    Then I found the gas cans, a boat seat, and a cooler full of food floating around about a half mile from shore. I called the cell phone number on the cooler and the recorder picked up, I left a message I had their things in my boat. But I knew when I saw the cooler and boat seat someone was in trouble.

    I called my wife and gave her the list of stuff fished out of the lake, and the name and phone number on the cooler. She called the troopers and a search and rescue began. I went back down the shore searching people or a boat but nothing. So then I went on up the shore searching for the next 12 miles. By then I noticed the aerial search had begun with planes in the air. Not sure yet exactly where they were. But I'm guessing down by the nurses cabin.

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    Tustumena,

    Good on you for being at the right place at the right time! This was truly a tragic event. From the sounds of it Ashley was a long time Alaskan who has been on that lake 100's of times and knew just how bad that lake can be. How far past the narrows did you start finding debris? What were the waves like?

    Such a sad day.

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    I started finding things around Freemans cabin, which is half way between fox lake and bear creek on the north shore and I think the last item was just before bear creek. The wind was about 15 mph so it was choppy but not white capping. But with the wave action it was hard to see things bobbing in the water. I had just picked my boat up from the shop at 11:30 that morning and was up on the lake breaking the new outboard in.

    When I decided someone was in trouble after seeing that boat seat, I figured it happened friday night. Saturday wasn't rough enough to swamp a boat but the wind was blowing pretty hard at my house on Friday.

    note: freemans cabin is remains, not a standing cabin

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    anchorage daily news coverage

    http://www.adn.com/2011/06/05/190053...tustumena.html

    Girls survive lake tragedy that killed 2
    SKIFF SINKS: Three swim 2 miles to shore in 40-degree water.


    By LISA DEMER
    ldemer@adn.com

    (06/05/11 22:12:54)

    A Kenai father, two teenage daughters and two friends set off Friday evening by boat for a weekend at a public use cabin on the north shore of Tustumena Lake. The excursion soon became far more dangerous than anyone anticipated.
    The weather turned wicked. The 18-foot aluminum skiff swamped and sank. Everyone went into the frigid, glacier-fed lake, with water temperatures in the low 40s. The man and the girls wore life vests, but even that precaution wasn't enough to save them all.
    The father, Ashley Udelhoven, 47, of Kenai, and one of his daughter's friends, 16-year-old Katarina Anderson of Kenai, didn't make it.
    The other three girls, sisters Miranda and Hanna Udelhoven of Soldotna, and friend Athena Robinson, survived by swimming an estimated two miles to shore, then walking for hours to another public cabin where they awaited help, according to Alaska State Troopers.
    At 15, Miranda Udelhoven is the oldest of the survivors. Rescuers say she rallied Hanna, 13, and Athena, 12, of Sterling, and led them to safety.
    "Her being able to stay cool and levelheaded and keep those girls, the younger girls, together and moving the whole time," said Rob Barto, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officer who was part of the rescue.
    Chris Johnson is the supervisory federal law enforcement officer for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. He was just launching a second boat to help search when he heard the three girls were found -- on shore and alive.
    "They had to have considerable drive and determination to make it that long, and seeing their father and friend not make it," Johnson said. "So it was a real testament to just a drive to live."

    BIG, ROUGH LAKE
    The refuge includes Tustumena Lake, which is more than 25 miles long and six miles wide. Its reputation as perilous to small craft arises from the fierce winds that blow down Tustumena Glacier and kick up big waves in a heartbeat, refuge law enforcement officers say.
    The Udelhovens are a longtime Kenai family. They often recreate on the lake and are well familiar with it, the officers said.
    When the group set out around 9:30 p.m. Friday, the water was calm, troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said. They launched from a Kasilof River landing and were headed to the Pipe Creek cabin, on the north shore of Tustumena Lake.
    "Ashley ... decided to cut across the lake to save some time. And they got about halfway across the lake when the winds picked up. Things got rough," Ipsen said. "And the girls reported there were like 9-foot waves and the boat got swamped and sank."
    Barto, who helped recover both bodies and found the girls on shore, said he doesn't doubt the swells were that high.
    "We had some real heavy winds here on the Kenai. We had some gusts to 45 (mph) or more. So I surely believe 9 if not bigger swells."
    Troopers and federal officers launched the search around 4:30 p.m. Saturday after another boater spotted debris and a cooler floating on the lake with the name Ashley Udelhoven and a phone number written on the side. The man called his wife, who called troopers, who found out that Udelhoven and four girls had gone out the night before.
    By then, some 19 hours had passed since the girls first got into the boat.

    A FATHER SLIPS AWAY
    After the skiff sank, one of the girls, Katarina, had trouble with her life vest. It was too big and kept slipping, Ipsen said. Udelhoven tried to help her, pulling her along with a rescue swimmer's stroke.
    "Then he started getting loopy. The girls noticed that he started just talking nonsense, which was a big indicator that he was hypothermic," Ipsen said.
    After a while, he fell quiet. The girls checked him and Katarina. They got no response.
    "So they decided to continue on or they might all succumb to hypothermia," Ipsen said.
    They made it to shore around 3 a.m. Saturday and huddled together for warmth. Miranda knew of another public use cabin, one called Nurses Cabin, and led the younger girls on a long and difficult trek there. One girl had lost both shoes during the swim and the others each had just one shoe, Barto said.
    At the cabin, they made a fire, ate some food, and waited for help.
    Barto and a state wildlife trooper searched by boat Saturday evening. Planes flown by troopers and the Fish and Wildlife Service checked the lake in a grid pattern.
    Barto and the trooper found the girl's body floating in the water at 7:12 p.m., then a plane spotted Udelhoven's, maybe a mile away, minutes later.
    Rescuers figured they were looking for three more bodies.

    INSPIRATION OUT OF TRAGEDY
    The girls heard the planes go by but couldn't flag them down. They ran to shore, wearing brightly colored clothing and waving a lime green flag of some sort to get the boat's attention. Just after 8 p.m., the rescuers spotted the girls.
    "It was joy. There were three people standing there," Barto said. "As soon as we turned the boat, they all started to cry and hug."
    The Fish and Wildlife Service pilot, who is a medic, landed the Cessna 185 floatplane and assessed the girls. The rescuers carried them over rocks in shallow water to the plane. They were flown to Soldotna and taken to Central Peninsula Hospital for treatment of hypothermia and minor injuries.
    "I guess they were scraped up but still in pretty good condition," Johnson said.
    Miranda had learned from her parents after years in the Alaska outdoors and on Tustumena Lake, Barto said. She knew to keep moving. She knew where to find the second cabin. She knew to signal for help with something bright. "It's a true survival story. It's a story everyone ought to learn from," Barto said.

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    Absolute tragedy. Just shocking. A boat full of local kids (and the dad) cutting across the lake and the wind shifts suddenly. Too sad. I mean you can be on that lake many years and never see much for waves. But I have seen the wind so strong I couldnt hold the nose of a 21 foot boat into it. And then the curlers over shallow areas which are deadly....
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    Horrific Consequences on perhaps the most dangerous lake in Alaska. Sadly...the Warning Sign at the launch will have to be updated...Again!!! :sad:
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sollybug View Post
    Absolute tragedy. Just shocking. A boat full of local kids (and the dad) cutting across the lake and the wind shifts suddenly. Too sad. I mean you can be on that lake many years and never see much for waves. But I have seen the wind so strong I couldnt hold the nose of a 21 foot boat into it. And then the curlers over shallow areas which are deadly....
    You know, some folks might think Tustumena can't produce 9 footers or better. But one time I went out from the far end with the wind behind me at 50 mph. I was in a heavy weather boat, the only one moving on the lake everyone else was holed up. A 25 footer offshore full vee with 36" sides, scuppered deck and twin 115's for power. I had to stay in the trough between waves for 6 miles before passing windy point and finding better weather. I couldn't see any land when in the bottom of the trough though it was a 1/2 mile away. The boat performed admirably.

    At first I thought the hardest part would be getting to the boat with the tender. I was anchored up offshore and I estimate the bay I was in at 30. Then I thought the hardest part was getting unhooked from the anchoring buoy before the wind pulled me taut against the rode. It took 3 attempts to get unhooked.

    Was that a day. Way too old for that kinda thing now. Now its an 18 footer pulled up on the beach out of the water waiting for the blow to pass by.

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    tustumena_lake....
    Do you have accurate data, as to the number of fatalities that have occurred on Tustumena Lake?
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    I wonder what it would take to get the feds to put in a new public use cabin on that lake. I can't help but think that "Miranda" cabin would be a fitting name. A plaque with the story and a dedication to the 2 lives lost would be a great though. Perhaps one day that cabin would save another life or three. I still can't wrap my head around a 15 year old having as much determination and leadership as that kid!

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    This one hits too close to home for sure. My coworker lost his daughter Katarina that day...thoughts and prayers to him and the Udelhoven family.

    Stay safe everyone!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Akres View Post
    tustumena_lake....
    Do you have accurate data, as to the number of fatalities that have occurred on Tustumena Lake?
    No, I don't have that information compiled and I haven't seen it anywhere that I can remember.

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    [QUOTE=LuJon;A plaque with the story and a dedication to the 2 lives lost would be a great though. Perhaps one day that cabin would save another life or three. I still can't wrap my head around a 15 year old having as much determination and leadership as that kid![/QUOTE

    The Udelhoven are great folks and her to do that be it amazing isn't to hard to understand. Her dad turned around to save that girl and died trying, to have his daughter take the action to save others is must of been the hardest thing anyone could every do. The familey knew that lake well, just wrong place & time, so keep boating safety in your minds, life jackets on or put on in under a min or 2.

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    I've been on Tustemena only a few times, but it is a big lake for sure. This is really a tragedy and I feel for those who lost loved ones. I'd like to hear about the warning signs of when to get off the water on Tust and Skilak if anybody has any. Is there any place that has a marine weather forcast like you can get for the inlet or PWS? Are the winds truely localized off the glacier?

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    I use the NOAA forecast for the most part.
    http://www.arh.noaa.gov/wmofcst.php?...FC&type=marine

    Tustumena Lake is a huge body of water placed in the center of the Kenai Peninsula that looks sorta like a figure 8 in shape and is generally influenced by wind conditions from 3 different sources. Due to its size and location:

    The first half of the lake will tend to get winds similar to Cook inlet, or Kasilof.
    thelake.JPG

    The second half of the lake will tend to get winds similar to Kachemak Bay, or Homer.
    campfire.JPG

    The third source is the winds that shoot across the Harding Ice Field funneling through the mountains at Tustumena Glacier and pushing across the lake, and can travel the whole length but not always. This source of wind is the most unpredictable of the three, the quickest to occur.

    It is not uncommon to have the wind blowing 3 different directions as you travel the length of the lake.

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    I know the U family and more specifically Ashley. I believe it is important to know that Ash was a seasoned boatmans on T-lake. He grew up there. The point being, he understood the risk and challenges that T-lake could present. It is quite evident with the actions if his girls that they had a great teacher in their father. As Jim T. has said in this link, the lake is dangerous and ever changing weather can make it a hostile place in merely minutes. I have had the good fortune of spending time on the lake with and without Ash and I can say with conviction that he would have never knowingly put those girls in harms way. I have experienced the offshore winds of T-lake and they are confusing. As Jim stated, there are at least 3 different weather patterns on the lake. I have started across the lake and the shoreline be as flat and calm as can be only to find the winds to be blowing offshore... mid-lake right down the middle. You are then committed as you are miles from the shoreline. It gets very dangerous, in just minutes the lake will stand up. I suspect something of the sort is what Ash ran into. I share all of this only to make the point that it could happen to any of us. Ash was experience, remember he left late in the evening to cross the lake knowing that its the best time. He was a good man!

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    I was on the lake that day when my boat acted up. It was flat as could be. In fact I was using my kicked when I was stopped by the Feds. To be honest, I know now what happened but that pissed me off. Being stopped by the cops on the lake? In any event, I've been on the lake when waves were crashing over the top of my boat. I know how fast it can whip up and then die down. The lesson here, especially for those in a skiff is don't try to cross the lake! I skirt the edges and have been thankful for it more than once. My absolute rule of thumb is to NEVER be more than a few minutes running time from shore and, like I've said, that has saved my butt more than once.

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    Sorry for thier loss. What awesome determination to survive though. I cant imagine seeing her dad and friend die and then take the other two on to survive. Amazing story, and amazing young women. God speed and stay strong.
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    Yes this is a very sad event. Tustumena is a very dangerous lake at times and very very deep and cold. Also a very scenic place that is fun to visit.

    Quote Originally Posted by btadams1 View Post
    I was on the lake that day when my boat acted up. It was flat as could be. In fact I was using my kicked when I was stopped by the Feds. To be honest, I know now what happened but that pissed me off. Being stopped by the cops on the lake? In any event, I've been on the lake when waves were crashing over the top of my boat. I know how fast it can whip up and then die down. The lesson here, especially for those in a skiff is don't try to cross the lake! I skirt the edges and have been thankful for it more than once. My absolute rule of thumb is to NEVER be more than a few minutes running time from shore and, like I've said, that has saved my butt more than once.
    My dad was up there last year with my mom taking his cousin and his wife out for some sight seeing and bear viewing.
    My dad is an experienced boater and has run this lake numerous times. He runs it with a 20' lund Alaskan with a 50hp 4 stroke on it witch he added a custom canvas bow cover that sheds water and covers the whole bow right up to the walk through windshield.
    He said a trooper landed his floatplane near them and told them they did not belong on the lake with this boat. My dad explaned to him that he had experience on the lake and always ran just offshore rarely if ever crossing the middle of the lake. The trooper still thought they should leave as it wasn't safe in his boat.
    I thought it interesting that they would land their plane just to say this.
    lots of smaller boats safely run this lake every year.

    Thanks to people like Tustumenalake these girls are safe.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kasilofchrisn View Post
    Yes this is a very sad event. Tustumena is a very dangerous lake at times and very very deep and cold. Also a very scenic place that is fun to visit.



    My dad was up there last year with my mom taking his cousin and his wife out for some sight seeing and bear viewing.
    My dad is an experienced boater and has run this lake numerous times. He runs it with a 20' lund Alaskan with a 50hp 4 stroke on it witch he added a custom canvas bow cover that sheds water and covers the whole bow right up to the walk through windshield.
    He said a trooper landed his floatplane near them and told them they did not belong on the lake with this boat. My dad explaned to him that he had experience on the lake and always ran just offshore rarely if ever crossing the middle of the lake. The trooper still thought they should leave as it wasn't safe in his boat.
    I thought it interesting that they would land their plane just to say this.
    lots of smaller boats safely run this lake every year.

    Thanks to people like Tustumenalake these girls are safe.
    If that trooper could see some of the water I have seen 18' Lunds take he might crap his pants!
    Sounds like another instance of big brotherism. Accidents happen, even to prepared people, and ain't nothing government can do about it except fasten us all in high chairs with restraining belts.

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