Search on for man suspected of drowning in Eek River

Posted: Wednesday, July 28, 2010

ANCHORAGE - A search was under way Tuesday for a man whose boat was found adrift on the Eek River in western Alaska.

Nick Lupie of Tuntutuliak, 33, left Bethel on Sunday night and hasn't been seen since, according to Alaska State Troopers. His 24-foot boat was discovered near Helmick Point.

A search for him began Monday morning. Villagers patrolled the water's edge, while a trooper airplane scouted from above.

Separate searches for two others who are missing and presumed drowned elsewhere in Alaska have also been unsuccessful, troopers said. Those suspected deaths and Lupie's disappearance could bring to seven the number of people who have drowned in Alaska in the past two weeks.

George Morgan, 22, of Kalskag, has been missing since a 10-foot metal skiff he was in sank last week on the Kuskokwim River. Kalskag resident Kalvin Kerr, 24, was with Morgan as the pair traveled from Aniak to Kalskag; Kerr managed to swim to shore, troopers said.

Another man thought to have fallen into the Kenai River last Wednesday also remains missing. Search-and-rescue dogs on Saturday caught a possible scent of the man, but officials have yet to find him.

The man is believed to be Robert Smithwick, 41, of Soldotna, whose vehicle was found near the Pillars boat launch and who matches the description of a man seen struggling to stay afloat in the river near the boat launch Wednesday, troopers said.

Family members told troopers that they have not seen Smithwick since Wednesday.

The disappearances come on the heels of four other drownings across Alaska the weekend of July 16. Three of the four deaths were young men recreating in small boats that capsized. None were wearing flotation devices when they went into the water, troopers said.

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