Skiffs peppered the Kenai River downstream of The Pillars boat launch searching for a man who disappeared in the stream Wednesday afternoon.
Kenai Fire Department turned the investigation over to the Alaska State Troopers for a recovery operation after nearly two hours of searching, according to Fire Marshal Eric Wilcox.
Officials received a call that a man had fallen into the Kenai about 3 p.m. A witness on the bank heard him fall into the river and begin "floundering," according to Wilcox. The man was described as middle aged, brown haired and without a shirt. The man has yet to be identified.
"No one saw him from the mid-section up," the marshal said.
Then witnesses in a boat spotted the man being carried downriver before he sunk under the water. Steve Woodworth, who was fishing in another boat, said that the driver sped downriver and shouted to the other boats that a man was in the water.
Wilcox said that a Central Emergency Services boat, two park service boats and a helicopter were searching for the man, along with numerous private fishers.
Initial reports stated that the man, between the ages of 25 and 35, was fishing along the river when he slipped in, but officials also heard conflicting information.
"We don't know how he got there," Wilcox said.
Central Emergency Services, troopers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the State Park Service and Kenai fire and police departments took part in the search.
Wilcox advised fishermen to wear life vests while on the river.
"This wouldn't have happened had he been wearing one," he said.
Tony Cella can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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