Search suspended for 7 boaters missing near Quinhagak

Quinhagak, Alaska (Krysti Shallenberger/KYUK)

The search has paused, indefinitely, for the seven overdue boaters who never arrived in Quinhagak two weeks ago. The boaters have been missing since Oct. 20.

Quinhagak Tribal Police Chief John Peter has been coordinating the search effort with local search and rescue groups. On Oct. 31, he put the search on hold.

“Due to the cold, dropping temperatures, we have to stop the search until the weather cooperates with us,” Peter said.

Snow covers the ground and ice has begun forming. The National Weather Service forecast a blizzard for Nov. 3.

“I’m not even sure we’d be able to send out boats because of the ice that’s on the mouth of our river,” Peter said.

Peter said that if temperatures rise and the ice breaks, the search could resume. If not, they will wait until spring to look for the seven missing people.

“I wish we could search some more,” Peter said. “But with this weather, I don’t want to risk anybody else’s life to search.”

Government search efforts have also stopped. Alaska State Troopers and the U.S. Coast Guard ended their search for the missing boaters on Oct. 27 after searching Nunivak Island and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta coast for four days.

The Alaska House Representative for District 38, Democrat Tiffany Zulkosky, wrote a letter to the Alaska State Troopers asking them to deploy the Civil Air Patrol to search for the missing boaters.

In a response letter, Trooper Col. Bryan Barlow noted the somberness of the situation and detailed the search efforts that had been taken. He wrote that the Civil Air Patrol believed that the Coast Guard was the most appropriate agency to search, and that the effort could resume if new debris or evidence was found. For now, the Civil Air Patrol will not engage in the search.

The seven missing boaters are Chad Chadwick Sr., Neal Gutleben, Alexie Nose Jr., Michael Sharp, Elizabeth Wassillie, Willie Wassillie and Bernice Waska.