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1 dead, 1 missing in separate weekend boating accidents

Posted: Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A Kasilof man drowned and another is missing in two separate boating mishaps over the weekend.

Richard Blakeslee Sr., 64, drowned in the Kenai River near the Russian River confluence on Sunday after the drift boat he and his wife, Jane, were in capsized.

The Bureau of Wildlife Enforcement continued searching Monday for signs of Lukas F. Spruill, 27, of Kasilof, whose fishing skiff capsized in the Egegik River near Bristol Bay on Friday.

Richard and Jane Blakeslee had put in near the Russian River Ferry and drifted down river to a small island, where they tied the boat to a tree onshore.

They quickly realized the water was too high and decided to move farther down river to one of Richard's favorite fishing spots, Jane said Monday, but as they untied the boat, the current swept it into a stump, causing it to capsize.

A fisher pulled Richard Blakeslee from the water and attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but was not successful, according to an Alaska State Trooper report.

Jane Blakeslee was rescued by a nearby fisher and uninjured.

She said the couple had life jackets in the boat, but the Blakeslees were not wearing them.

Richard Blakeslee, a retired Navy chief, recently was active building authentic hickory dog sleds and also eight freight sleds for an educational project along the Iditarod Trail from Seward to Nome. He also made and sold smaller, scale-model decorative dog sleds.

Funeral arrangements are being made by Peninsula Memorial Chapel.

Troopers downgraded their operation to "search and recovery" in the Egegik River, the King Salmon River, Egegik Bay and Bristol Bay near shore looking for signs of Spruill, who went into the water when his skiff capsized in big waves and 40 mph winds.

According to troopers, Spruill was engaged in setnet fishing, running line when the boat was swamped by a wave and a second one overturned it.

He reportedly helped rescue 17-year-old Jacob Larson from the water shortly after the capsizing, but then disappeared. Fishers from a second skiff tried to rescue Spruill but were not successful.

Troopers searched in good weather over the weekend with a fixed-wing aircraft and a helicopter. A trooper skiff from Egegik also helped in the search, and troopers were conducting a shore patrol along Bristol Bay from a four-wheeler and a truck.

Spruill, an assistant wrestling coach for Kenai Central High School, is a two-time state wrestling champion who graduated in 1995.

A tragic car accident in 1996 left him with a broken back, but he fought back from the injury and eventually won a spot as a walk-on with the University of Iowa Hawkeyes grapplers.

Plans are being made for a Saturday memorial service for Spruill, according to his stepmother, Kay Spruill.



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