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Man who died on mudflats was Army captain

Posted: June 25, 2013 - 1:10pm

ANCHORAGE — The man who died crossing Anchorage mudflats from Fire Island to Kincaid Park was an Army captain experienced in outdoor challenges.

Joseph Hugh Eros, 42, was overcome by the incoming tide Sunday afternoon as he and a companion made the return walk from the island.

Witnesses called Anchorage emergency officials at about 4:30 p.m. as they watched the water rise and force the men to swim. Eros’ companion, hypothermic from the 40-degree water, made it to the beach but Eros disappeared. The crew of an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter spotted his body at 3:30 a.m. Monday.

The Anchorage Daily News ( reports Eros was a Harvard graduate and an Army attorney getting ready for transfer next month to South Korea.

The Anchorage Fire Department has not released the name of his companion. They were caught in one of the more extreme tides of the year, said fire department battalion chief Tim Garbe.

The tide rose 6 inches per minute Sunday at its peak, Garbe said.

Eros graduated from Harvard in 1993, his brother, Mike Eros, said from Texas. He biked across the country and rock climbed. He liked to hike and whitewater kayak. He loved Anchorage, his brother said, because it was close to trails and wildlife.

He was inspired to enlist, his brother said, after the 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, his brother said.

“Within weeks of Sept. 11 he had joined the U.S. Army, feeling called to respond as best as he could,” Eros said by email.

He was not married and had no children.

Mike Eros was scheduled to visit his brother in Alaska this week before the move to South Korea.

“I actually asked him if we could go to Fire Island and he said no, it would be too dangerous even though the ‘super-moon’ low tides had recently happened,” he wrote. “I was actually disappointed, but of course did not question his decision. I am immensely sad he ended up going this week. I can hear him cautioning me not go do something so stupid myself. I will always hear his voice guiding me towards better decisions, especially in the outdoors.”

The Cook Inlet mud flats are irresistible to some, Garbe said.

“It’s tempting. It looks like it’s just a short walk to Fire Island but the conditions can change so quickly,” he said. People make the crossing despite warnings and every summer some need to be rescued, he said.

Doug Van Etten, a former leader of the Anchorage Adventurers Meetup group, said he’s done the trip five times but that it takes a precise understanding of the tides. Few people have that understanding, he said.

“You look right down Turnagain Arm,” he said. “You get the whole view with the mountains framing it, you basically look all the way to Portage.”

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