Man dead, 5 rescued after fall through Kuskokwim River ice
A man's body has been found near Bethel after he and his family fell into the frozen Kuskokwim River on New Year’s Eve, Alaska State Troopers said.
Public radio station KYUK reported Monday that 37-year-old Mark Kasayulie's body was recovered from the river at about 2 p.m. after he, his sister-in-law, his wife and their three young children fell into an open, marked hole on the river.
Troopers said in a Tuesday dispatch that Bethel Search and Rescue volunteers had tried to block the hole Kasayulie and the group fell into. A man's body was recovered from the river at about 2:30 p.m.
According to troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters, none of the six people involved in the incident were on foot.
"Three people were on the snowmachine and three people were being pulled in a sled," Peters wrote. "Kasayulie was reportedly driving when they went into the water."
Alcohol is believed to be a factor in the incident, troopers said.
Word that “multiple people went through an open hole in the river ice,” near the Kuskokwim’s confluence with the Gweek River, reached troopers via the Bethel Police Department just before 10 p.m. Sunday according to an online dispatch.
“[Kasayulie] went through the ice and was missing,” troopers wrote. “Five other people were able to get out of the water but were wet and suffering from hypothermia.”
Bethel Search and Rescue responded to the area beginning at about 10:40 p.m. and retrieved people from the river roughly an hour later. The search was canceled soon afterward “due to the darkness and dangerous river conditions in the search area.”
The volunteer group also requested searchers from Akiachak, troopers said, but “poor weather and river conditions made any response from Akiachak too hazardous to attempt.”
“AST made contacted with the survivors who stated they were traveling from Bethel to Akiachak when they went through the ice hole,” troopers wrote. “They reported Kasayulie went into the water and did not see him get out.”
KYUK has recently reported a rise in alcohol-related nighttime searches near Bethel, as well as open leads of water on the Kuskokwim and sloughs in the area.
The body recovered Monday will be sent to the state medical examiner's office in Anchorage for autopsy and positive identification.
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