Three people died within a three-day period aboard a vessel anchored offshore at South Douglas’s Sandy Beach, with drug use a possible contributing factor to their deaths, the Juneau Police Department reported Saturday morning.
The Dusky Rock, a 35-foot commercial sailing vessel built in 1984, was anchored offshore in Douglas for about a week, said City and Borough of Juneau Harbormaster Matthew Creswell, although it frequently anchored near Aurora Harbor at night, according to boat owners at both harbor locations.
The first death was reported at around 2:23 p.m. Wednesday when 34-year-old Erika Lee Judson told police she found her friend, Curtis Edwin Anderson, 51, dead aboard the Dusky Rock. JPD along with Capital City Fire/Rescue officials responded to the scene, confirming the man was dead.
“The initial investigation showed no signs of foul play,” the statement issued by JPD on Saturday noted.
At about 6:20 p.m. on Friday, police received another report of death aboard the same vessel, which was still anchored at the same location.
“The complainant reported hearing a dog howling on his friend’s boat, the Dusky Rock,” JPD stated. “He went out to check on the dog and found a deceased female on board.”
“With assistance from Docks and Harbors, JPD and CCFR responded to the vessel and confirmed there were two deceased females on board the Dusky Rock. Nobody else was located on the vessel,” JPD stated. The two deceased female were identified Monday as Judson and 28-year-old Amoretta Nina Nichele Wesley.
The vessel was towed to Aurora Harbor due to concerns there might be toxic breathable substances in the interior, Creswell said. He said the dog aboard the vessel, named Sockeye, is safe and with a responsible caretaker.
“There was concerns of whether it was safe to be down in the cabin for toxic gases or carbon monoxide potential,” the harbormaster said. “Once we got it into Aurora Harbor, CCFR came again, gas-freed it to make sure the oxygen levels were good and there were no toxic gases down there. And then JPD took over the investigation, removed the two deceased and the investigation is with JPD now.”
According to JPD, there were no initial signs of foul play regarding the death of the man found Wednesday. All three individuals are being sent to the Alaska Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage for autopsies.
“The use of controlled substances may have been a contributing factor in these deaths,” JPD stated.
Pete Phillips, who owns a live-aboard boat in the Aurora Harbor, said the Dusky Rock appeared to be in need of general maintenance. He said having the boat anchored offshore near Sandy Beach for an extended number of nights is unusual. Creswell agreed, and said having a boat anchored off Sandy Beach for a prolonged number of days is “not super common.”
While a few people came by to look at the vessel Saturday after hearing initial reports of the deaths aboard, Creswell said the plan is to leave the vessel where it is pending further investigation during the coming days. Creswell said he’s seen the boat a couple of times in the Juneau area during the past five or six years.
“It’s safe, it’s locked up, it’s tied up right now and it’s in a good place,” he said. “So we’ll decide next steps Monday morning.”