Tragic Accident When Raft Hits "Landslide Debris" In Klutina River: Troopers Say One Woman Died

TROOPERS SAY 3 GUIDED RAFTS INVOLVED   Troopers, EMS & Fish & Wildlife Responded At Bridge On The Richardson  A Man Who Was Swept Do...

TROOPERS SAY 3 GUIDED RAFTS INVOLVED  

Troopers, EMS & Fish & Wildlife Responded At Bridge On The Richardson 

A Man Who Was Swept Down The River Was Saved At The Bridge 

EMTs Unsuccessfully Tried To Save Pennsylvania Woman's Life, Troopers Say Family Members At Scene


Klutina River (File Archive, Copper River Country Journal) 

FOLLOW UP REPORT

2 PM JULY 8TH

Alaska State Troopers say one person died in a fatal river accident on the Klutina River. A woman from Pennsylvania died in a raft accident on Sunday, July 7th on the river. The accident directly involved four people – a guide and three passengers. It also lead to the successful rescue of a man from the frigid waters of the fast-running Klutina at the bridge in Copper Center. EMTs, Troopers and Wildlife Troopers tried, unsuccessfully, to save the life of the deceased woman, reports say. 

Tim DeSpain, of the Alaska State Troopers communications office explained to the Journal:

The male that was retrieved by Good Samaritans at the bridge survived and was flown to an Anchorage area hospital. The decedent, Deborah Burke, was recovered to a second raft at the scene. When the raft arrived at the bridge, life-saving efforts were made but she was declared deceased...

There was one fatality. Two individuals were medevaced to an Anchorage area hospital. One has been discharged and the other is expected to be discharged sometime today. The fourth individual was uninjured. 

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The Klutina River, a tributary of the Copper River, has its origins at Klutina Glacier. It flows at the very fast speed of 14 mph. By comparison, the Mississippi River runs along at around 1.2 mph. The Yukon River runs at between to 5 mph and 8 mph. And the Copper runs at 7 mph. 

Historically, during the Valdez-Copper Valley Gold Rush of 1898, the Klutina River was used extensively by gold miners. They built spruce-tree boats of raw timber after they climbed over the Valdez and Klutina Glaciers. Many of their boats were destroyed by the waters of the river. 

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INITIAL TROOPER REPORT

12 PM JULY 8TH

Location: Glennallen

Type: SAR-Fatal

Dispatch Text:

On July 7, 2024, at 6:25pm, the Alaska Wildlife Troopers were notified of a rafting incident on the Klutina River near Copper Center.  

One raft, in a guided group of three rafts, was pinned by the river current against landslide debris and rolled over.  In the rolled raft was a rafting guide, and three passengers. 

Rescue efforts were initiated on scene. The guide, and two individuals were recovered to a second raft. The fourth individual was not immediately located.  Alaska State Troopers, Alaska Wildlife Troopers, and EMS responded downriver to the Richardson Highway Bridge where the fourth person was spotted and recovered by good Samaritans. 

One of the passengers, that was initially recovered to the second raft, identified as Deborah Burke age 65 of Pennsylvania, succumbed to her injuries after life-saving efforts by EMS were unsuccessful. 

The rafting guide and one of the recovered individuals were treated on scene and then medevaced to Anchorage with serious injuries. Next of kin was on scene and notified.


This story has been adjusted. The original trooper report stated that it was "landslide debris" and not necessarily a "sweeper" that caused the raft to roll over.

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