Juneau man dies in apparent scuba diving accident

John Robert Pugh Jr. of Juneau died early Monday morning while scuba diving in the vicinity of Funter Bay on the west coast of Admiralty Island. He was working as a deckhand on a 21-foot skiff in a sea cucumber fishery opener that was scheduled to start at 8 a.m.

Pugh, 35, was a certified diver and owned a local diving business. He is the son of University of Alaska Southeast Chancellor John Pugh and his wife, Margaret.

Alaska State Troopers say Pugh Jr. was on his second recreational scuba dive of the morning and diving alone at 6:30 a.m. “when the boat operator and permit holder noticed that Pugh’s activity in the water had stopped. The skiff moved closer to Pugh’s location where a diver entered the water and contacted Pugh who was unresponsive near the bottom in 20 feet of water with his regulator out of his mouth.”

Pugh was brought to the surface and hoisted on the boat where CPR was unsuccessful. Pugh was immediately transported back to Auke Bay and the Coast Guard was notified via marine radio.

Upon arrival at the Auke Bay Boat launch, the skiff was met by a Capital City Fire and Rescue squad, which determined Pugh was dead.

The Medical Examiner’s Office was contacted and ordered the body sent to Anchorage for an autopsy in accordance with standard protocols. There were no signs of trauma and the cause of death is unknown. An investigation into the incident is ongoing, and is being pursued by both the Coast Guard and the Alaska State Troopers, Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow said. He said he could not discuss any findings of a preliminary investigation.

“It’s a tragic event, and the Coast Guard’s thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family at this time,” Wadlow said.

The Juneau Police Department assisted with the notification of next of kin. His parents were in Boston attending an educational conference. UAS spokeswoman Katie Bausler told The Associated Press they are expected back in Juneau on Tuesday.

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