Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Officials lift Glacier Bay speed limit

GUSTAVUS - The National Park Service has lifted a 13-knot vessel speed limit in parts of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve because of a decline in humpback whale activity, the agency announced.

Superintendent Tomie Lee imposed the restriction July 23 for the area around the park boundary at Point Carolus and July 29 for Whidbey Passage.

A 13-knot restriction remains in effect for Lower Bay, where at least 20 endangered humpbacks continue to congregate.

Boaters are prohibited from pursuing humpbacks to within a quarter of a mile in park waters, and must slow to 10 knots or less and steer away if accidentally closer than that.

Penn. man killed in hunting accident

ANCHORAGE - A Pennsylvania man was killed when he stepped in front of an assistant guide attempting to shoot a wounded grizzly bear, Alaska State Troopers said.

Gary Kern, 50, of Gettysburg, died Sunday.

Kern was shot while hunting with a guide service at the Chichatna River three miles south of Beluga Lake. Beluga Lake is about 75 miles northwest of Anchorage across Cook Inlet.

Kern had fired two shots and wounded the bear, troopers said.

As the bear fled into brush, the head guide ordered his assistant guide to shoot to stop the bear, troopers said.

The assistant guide raised his .338 rifle to fire. Kern stepped in front of the weapon and was hit in the head, troopers said.

Troopers say no criminal charges have been filed in the case.

Troopers from Soldotna flew to the scene by helicopter, trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said. They were not able to recover the body on the initial flight.

"They ran out of daylight and did not have enough room on the helicopter to transport the body last night," Wilkinson said.

The helicopter returned Monday and picked up the body at about noon. The body was flown to the medical examiner's office in Anchorage for an autopsy.

Troopers tried unsuccessfully to track the wounded animal.

Airmen set to join Stryker Brigade in Iraq

FAIRBANKS - About 20 airmen have left from Eielson Air Force Base, bound for the Iraq and a partnership with the Army.

The 3rd Air Support Operations Squadron is assigned to the 354th Operations Group at Eielson but for 18 months has been training with the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Fort Wainwright.

It will be the first time a joint effort with the Army and Air Force has taken place in combat using the Stryker vehicle.

The 3rd air support commander, Lt. Col. Russell Smith, said each of the squadron's five Stryker vehicles is assigned an Army driver and gunman with an Air Force Tactical Air Control Party, the specialized team that manages air space above ground troops and guides reconnaissance and surveillance air support.

In the past, the TACPs traveled in Humvees manned by airmen. One of the advancements in the Stryker's communication abilities is technology that eliminates communication delays between air and ground troops, allowing pilots to get information en route to a target.

Commanders said that is especially important in Iraq, where enemies, troops and civilians can all be in close range shifting position.

Fairbanks man shot and killed

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks man was fatally shot early Sunday morning.

Alvin Richard Wilkins Jr., 25, died at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital at 5:25 a.m., Fairbanks police said.

Officers received a call at 3:49 a.m. that shots had been fired in the 800 block of 25th Avenue in South Fairbanks. The report said a man had been wounded in the chest.

Officers responded to the scene and interviewed witnesses. A resident on 25th Avenue said he heard three shots fired in the parking lot of the JP Jones Community Development Center.

Suspects and a vehicle that may have been connected to the shooting were identified by Chenega Technical Services at Fort Wainwright Army Post, police said.

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