An aircrew aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter makes an approach on their return to Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, June 5, 2019. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bradley Pigage.)

An aircrew aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter makes an approach on their return to Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, June 5, 2019. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bradley Pigage.)

Petersburg man struggled to save companion in boating accident

Cold water and high winds contributed to death at sea

An attempt to assist the crew of a grounded fishing vessel went terribly wrong when a skiff crewed by two good Samaritans capsized in the Duncan Canal west of Petersburg.

The Coast Guard on Tuesday released more details about the boating accident that took place early Friday morning, which claimed the life of 50-year-old Doug Larson.

Charles King, 40, and Larson boated out to assist the Fish Hawk after it grounded roughly 12 miles west of Petersburg in the canal, said Coast Guard public affairs specialist Petty Officer 3rd Class Amanda Norcross in a phone interview Tuesday.

Norcross said the two were in sight of the Fish Hawk when their skiff flipped, as winds gusted at 45 knots. The crew of the Fish Hawk called the Coast Guard for immediate assistance at 12:55 a.m. Friday after witnessing the skiff capsize, Norcross said.

Alaska State Troopers responded in the vessel Enforcer, and the Coast Guard deployed the USCGC John McCormick from Ketchikan as well as an MH-60J Jayhawk helicopter from Sitka to assist in search and rescue operations, Norcross said.

At 1:20 a.m., the crew of the Fish Hawk had managed to recover their fishing vessel from the grounding and radioed that they had located the two men in the water, 90 minutes after they had gone in, Norcross said. Neither King nor Larson was wearing a personal flotation device, Norcross said. The water temperature in Petersburg was approximately 48 degrees. The expected time before exhaustion and death in water that cold can be as little as an hour, or as long as three.

“The crew of the fishing vessel pulled one of the guys out of the water,” said Norcross. “When they found that guy, he was holding on to the other person.”

King had been holding on to both the skiff and Larson when he was recovered, but the current dragged Larson away when King was recovered by the Fish Hawk crew, Norcross said. It was unclear if Larson was conscious at the time, and the crew was unable to locate him.

The crew of the Jayhawk helicopter later located Larson’s body around 1 p.m. and was able to guide the Fish Hawk in to recover it. Alaska State Troopers linked up with the vessel to interview the survivor and confirm the identity and death of Larson, as well as to take possession of body, Norcross said.

King was reported to be in good condition before the search was concluded, Norcross said.


• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.


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