Boaters lost, elder dies
NNSL (Sep 03/99) - Aklavik residents were staggered with shock last week by the news of a fatal boating accident on the Arctic Ocean and the passing away of a beloved elder.
Dead are Kenneth Paul, 36, and Sandra Meyook, 12. Boat operator Dennis Arey, Sandra's father, survived the ordeal while Sandra's sister, Sylvia, remains missing.
Elder Tom Arey, 82, died peacefully in Aklavik on Thursday morning.
Sgt. John Owen with the North Slope Police Department in Barrow, Alaska, said Monday that the search for Sylvia Meyook was continuing -- with the help of helicopters from the North Slope Search and Rescue team and scores of volunteers from the community of Kaktovik on Barter Island. There was no more news Tuesday.
"The searchers have been out virtually non-stop since this began," said Owen. "People in boats and on foot are volunteering with Kaktovik Search and Rescue and are asking for more volunteers -- they've been out there for days and days."
Police said the accident occurred on Sunday evening near Icy Reef while the boaters were en route from Hershel Island on the Canadian side of the border to visit relatives on Barter Island on the American side, normally a four-hour trip. Police were notified when the party failed to arrive that night in Kaktovik, but conditions on the ocean were so rough that a search couldn't be mounted until the following morning.
"There were very rough seas and Dennis was searching for a channel to put into," said Owen, "but in the turbulence Kenneth fell overboard and when Dennis turned the boat sideways to try to pick him up a huge wave just flipped the boat over."
Police reported there were no lifejackets aboard the boat, a 19-foot Lund. Owen called it miraculous that Dennis Arey was able to survive the accident, swimming and then washing, semi-conscious, up on shore not far from the boat itself. Two days later, Arey was able to use gasoline from the boat to light a fire and signal a passing Arctic Wings floatplane, which landed and rescued him.
The bodies of Paul and Sandra Meyook were subsequently found and brought back to Aklavik on Saturday. Const. Paul Richer said the RCMP had been in constant contact with their American counterparts throughout the search, keeping residents updated on the latest developments. He described the mood of Aklavik as grim -- made worse by Tom Arey's passing on Thursday morning.