Alleged drunk driver had brush with fame

Posted: Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Soldotna man allegedly responsible for hitting and killing a snowmachiner off of Brown's Lake Road last week was once a ship captain on the pilot television series that spawned the Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch."

Clarence "Ole" Helgevold, 59, captained the Arctic Dawn on a three-part miniseries called "America's Deadliest Season," which premiered in July 2004. The show, effectively a pilot for what is now known as "Deadliest Catch," followed Helgevold and his crew during the 2003-2004 opilio crab season.

Helgevold was driving a car that struck George Larion's snowmachine last Wednesday evening, inflicting fatal injuries on the 47-year-old Soldotna resident. He is charged with driving under the influence and manslaughter.

Helgevold lived in Dutch Harbor for years, said First Sgt. Matt Betzen of the Unalaska Police Department. Yet even though Helgevold "drank excessively," Betzen said, the officer could not recall any glaring run-ins with the law.

"I don't remember him getting into any real trouble up here," Betzen said.

Joel and Corey, Helgevold's two sons, were a slightly different story. They served as deckhands on the Arctic Dawn, and Betzen remembers them getting into some trouble with drugs, alcohol, fighting and other disputes.

"I would guess that was part of the attraction," Betzen said. "The dysfunctional family dynamic. That seems to be what attracts reality TV."

The Arctic Dawn is a 97-foot long steel crabber/tender built in 1981. It caught fire in September 2010 while moored in Seattle and was substantially damaged.

"The very first time they (the Discovery Channel) came out here, that was one of the boats that they followed," Betzen said.

Helgevold's preliminary hearing is set for Jan. 31.

Karen Garcia can be reached at

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