Longtime Juneau fisherman drowns in Hoonah harbor

Lifelong fisherman and longtime Juneau resident George Robert Lunda died Sunday night in Hoonah, drowning after an apparent accidental fall into the harbor.

Lunda, 65, was a halibut and black cod fisherman who lived in Juneau but regularly came to Hoonah, his wife Angie said. He was mooring his boat, the F/V Competition in Hoonah at the time of his death. He and Angie were preparing for their retirement, as George was scheduled to go to Hawaii this coming weekend to help work on the family’s house there.

“He was a well-respected fisherman, a great family man and he’ll be missed by a lot of people, not just his family,” Angie said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Services are scheduled for noon next Tuesday, Nov. 7, at Northern Light United Church in Juneau, Angie said.

Lunda was born in Wisconsin, but his family moved to Juneau when he was a child, according to the family’s submitted obituary. He and Angie have two children, aged 26 and 22.

Hoonah Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police William McKillican said the death was ruled accidental.

“The case is pretty much closed at this point,” McKillican said. “We’ve determined based on our investigation, that it appears to be an accidental slip and fall where the gentleman had just fallen into the water and was unable to recover.”

The situation was so clear, McKillican said, that the body was not even sent to the Alaska State Medical Examiner for further testing. No toxicology tests were done on the body, McKillican said, so it’s not clear whether alcohol was involved or not.

Security cameras at the harbor caught most of the incident, Hoonah Harbormaster Andy Gray said. The cameras are motion-activated, Gray said, and turned on when Lunda was walking toward the water. The footage cut out for the moment when Lunda fell in the water, Gray said, but restarted when Lunda was struggling to get back out. Gray said he wasn’t sure what caused the malfunction.

The Hoonah Department of Public Safety received a 911 call at 8 a.m. Monday, McKillican said, and officers responded to find Lunda deceased in the harbor due to apparent drowning. The family retrieved his body earlier this week, Angie said, where they were greeted by a group of people expressing their condolences and support.

The Lundas spent a good deal of time in Hoonah, as Angie was the superintendent of Hoonah City School District for a time. Prior to that, she was an educator in Juneau, teaching at Floyd Dryden Middle School and serving as principal at Gastineau Elementary School.

Having spent time in both Juneau and Hoonah has led to a huge outpouring of support from both communities, sister-in-law Dodie Lunda said Wednesday. In addition, she said, people from all over the country have reached out. From distant relatives to former deckhands, it’s clear to the family that George touched numerous lives.

“He was a very good fisherman and a very good man,” Angie said.

 


 

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com.

 


 

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