Alaska Digest

Wire reports

Posted: Sunday, January 16, 2005

Search under way for survivors of sinking

ANCHORAGE - One crewman died and three others were missing in the Bering Sea on Saturday after a 92-foot crab boat sank west of St. Paul Island.

In all six people were on board the Big Valley went it went down 70 miles west of the island, one of the Pribilofs, about 275 miles northwest of Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands.

The Coast Guard and Alaska State Troopers recovered one man alive and two who were unconscious. One was hospitalized and one confirmed dead. The condition of the third man, who remained aboard a trooper vessel, was not known, said Coast Guard spokeswoman Gail Sinner.

Some rescuers were diverted north after a second vessel, the Sultan, a Seattle-based fishing boat, reported a crewman washed overboard 100 miles north of St. Paul Island.

The Coast Guard shortly after 7 a.m. Saturday received an "emergency position-indicating radio beacon" from the Big Valley, a crab boat out of Kodiak.

The Coast Guard issued a call asking nearby Good Samaritan vessels to respond and sent out the cutter Sherman, a C-130 airplane and a helicopter. State troopers sent an aircraft and the Stimson, a trooper patrol vessel. The Stimson confirmed the vessel sank.

"The Stimson was in a debris field," said Sgt. Lonnie Gonzales from Kodiak.

The Coast Guard helicopter picked up two crewmen at about 11 a.m., one from the water and one from a life raft. A third man was pulled from the water by the trooper vessel. All three crewmen wore survival suits, indicating the crew knew the vessel was in distress and had time to don the bulky suits.

Seas were listed at 25 feet and winds were more than 40 mph in the area, Gonzales said. The temperature was 38 degrees.

Anchorage property values climb

ANCHORAGE - Taxable value of homes in Anchorage rose an average of 12.8 percent for 2005, according to the municipal assessor.

Assessor Marty McGee said single-family homes averaged $241,800 for 2005, an 11 percent change from last year.

Of the residential areas in the Anchorage Bowl, downtown and Mountain View saw the biggest jumps in assessed values: an average of 21.5 percent and 17.6 percent.

A proposed property tax exemption could save many homeowners from stiff tax bill increases this year. The proposed exemption would shave off 10 percent of the assessed value, up to $20,000, of owner-occupied homes.

The exemption is subject to voter approval in April.

Actual tax bills will be determined after city finance officials calculate the mill rate necessary to support the school and city budgets passed by the assembly last fall.

When the assessor includes the value of new homes built last year, the overall assessed value of the city's residential properties is $15.2 billion, a 14 percent jump from 2004 values.

Commercial property values, including new construction, total $6.5 billion for 2005, a 16 percent increase from 2004.

Market values in Anchorage, over the past four or five years, have caught up with prices in the Lower 48, said Niel Thomas, real estate agent at Coldwell Banker Fortune.

One reason is that more people are moving in from Outside, creating a demand for homes that surpasses the rate of new construction.

The cost of materials has also gone up, Thomas said, which makes new buildings more expensive. That causes other homes, which may be a couple of years old, to increase in price too, he said.

Marijuana seized in Bering Sea village

ANCHORAGE - Tips and complaints from neighbors led Alaska State Troopers to seize nearly $29,000 worth of marijuana and $17,000 cash from a home in a Bering Sea village.

Troopers raided the home Tuesday in Quinhagak, a community of about 600 people 71 miles southwest of Bethel.

Charges are pending against four adults as a result of the bust, troopers said. Three children, including an 18-month-old, were taken into protective custody after the raid.

Seizing more than a pound of pot in a rural village was not a surprise to troopers, said Investigator Joseph Hazelaar. Pot confiscation in rural Alaska has risen in recent years, in part because of greater alcohol interdiction efforts.

Confiscation nearly doubled from 2002 to 2004, when troopers nabbed nearly 50 pounds.

Over the last few months, village officers logged enough complaints and tips to establish grounds for a search warrant.

On Tuesday afternoon, the troopers' Western Alaska Area Narcotics Team flew in and raided the house.

Quinhagak is within boating or snowmobiling distance of several other villages.

Judge sentences teen for fatal shooting

PALMER - A teenager convicted of shooting a friend to death was sentenced to five years in prison.

Shane Harapat, 18, was sentenced Friday for fatally shooting Kenny Alcantra as the two friends sat on Harapat's bed nearly two years ago.

Both were 16 at the time of the shooting.

Superior Court Judge Eric Smith said Harapat would be eligible for parole in a little more than three years.

The boys first met in kindergarten. Harapat offered a tearful apology to the Alcantra family.

"I wake up to the fact that he's gone and that, worse yet, I'm the one responsible," Harapat said. "I assure you, I wouldn't make a conscious choice to end the life of somebody I cared so deeply about."

On Feb. 5, 2003, Alcantra stopped by for a visit to the Harapat family's Palmer home.

Harapat smoked marijuana that afternoon and was cocking the loaded .44-caliber Ruger Super Red Hawk revolver and spinning the cylinder as the two talked, he told investigators.

The gun went off. During the trial, prosecutors said Harapat shot Alcantra while indulging in reckless gunplay. Defense attorneys said Harapat was handing the gun to Alcantra when it fired.

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