Johnson Lake outing turns deadly

Posted: Sunday, July 18, 2010

Two men died after their canoe capsized on Johnson Lake while fishing Saturday afternoon.

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Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Central Emergency Services Chaplain Frank Alioto comforts a friend of two men who died after the canoe the two men were in capsized on Johnson Lake in Kasilof early Saturday afternoon.

Alaska State Troopers identified the victims as Kevin Maze and Jason McClarin, both 35, of Anchorage.

John Evans of Central Emergency Services said the bodies were recovered in 10 to 15 feet of water about 30 feet from shore.

They were not wearing life preservers, but had them in the canoe, he said.

Two witnesses, Chris Fielding and his brother, Shane, both of Homer, were camping at the Johnson Lake State Recreation Area. Shortly after 2 p.m. they heard the men yelling for help after the canoe capsized. Shane called 911.

"I ran to get my life jacket and swam out to them," Fielding said. "Right before I got out there I saw one of the guys start to go under."

Once Fielding got out to the canoe he did not see either of them anymore, he said. The canoe was not far from the campground. It had capsized next to an area thick with lily pads.

Troopers and emergency personnel from Central Emergency Services, Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including divers, responded to the accident with a rescue vessel and skiff. A helicopter flew overheard hunting for any trace of the individuals while the capsized canoe still bobbed on the water.

Fielding said the canoe was fixed to a rope in the water. He was not sure if the rope was an anchor line.

Kristy Innes of Soldotna saw troopers pull the bodies out of the water while walking around the park with her family.

They did not perform CPR, she said.

Johnson Lake, near Kasilof, is stocked with rainbow trout by the Department of Fish and Game.

The lake is a popular spot for campers and boaters, and the site was teeming with both Saturday afternoon.

Campground host Garry Webb said this is the first time this year there has been a boating accident on the lake.

"The sorry thing about it is we do provide life preservers and everything, trying not to have this situation," he said.

Evans said it is especially important to wear life jackets in the summer because even though the weather is warmer the water is still cold.

While the bodies of the men were recovered, a friend waited onshore to identify them.

Webb's wife, Linda, also a camp host, said the friend had told her he had been close with the men for 30 years.

"He was just coming in to join them at camp today," she said.

The friend wiped the tears away from his face with the sleeve of his gray-hooded sweatshirt.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.



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