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KHS grad rescued in Alaska

September 26, 2013
The Daily News

JUNEAU, Alaska - The Coast Guard has suspended its search for a 24-year-old hunter missing in Behm Canal east of Ketchikan.

Garrett Hagan of Craig last week was hunting with a 51-year-old Adrian Knopps of Grand Ledge, Mich. Knopps is a 1980 graduate of Kingsford High School.

Hagan was last seen by Knopps taking off in a 7-foot skiff loaded with fresh game for the 44-foot pleasure boat Abundance.

Crew from the cruise vessel Wilderness Adventure at 3:30 a.m. Sunday spotted the Abundance adrift.

Coast Guard searchers found Knopps on a remote island. He had been alone for seven days and was suffering from severe hypothermia.

The Coast Guard says the agency and others spent 73 hours through Tuesday looking for Hagan.

Ketchikan is on Revillagigedo Island. Behm Canal separates the island from the mainland.

Knopps, owner of Knopps Electric of Grand Ledge, was released Tuesday from the Ketchikan Medical Center in Ketchikan, Alaska after being treated for hypothermia, according to his mother, Elsie Knopps, also of Grand Ledge, the Lansing State Journal reported.

Because he was in wolf territory, Knopps sought refuge in trees, his mother said, and it was there his rescuers spotted him.

"He was clinging for dear life in that tree," Elsie Knopps told the Journal.

His wife, Esther, has flown to Alaska to be with her husband, Elsie Knopps said.

While on the island, as Knopps faced rain and cold with only a few protein bars for nourishment, his family did not know he was stranded due to the remote conditions and lack of cell phone service.

The Lansing State Journal reported it wasn't until his wife was making plans to pick him up from his expected return flight to Chicago Monday that suspicions grew that something was not right, Elsie said.

Knopps, and a friend, Garrett Hagen of Craig, Alaska, left Ketchikan on the Abundance, Hagen's 44-foot fishing boat Sept. 14 for a bear hunting trip on a remote island.

JuneauEmpire.com reports that Coast Guard Lt. Mickey Sanders said Knopps and Hagen anchored the boat and went ashore in a small skiff.

They were successful in killing a grizzly bear, and attempted to load the meat and hide in the skiff, but it was too heavy.

They then moved the hide into an empty blue kayak, which was to be towed behind the skiff.

Hagen left on the skiff to take the remains of the bear to the larger boat, expecting to return shortly to pick up Knopps.

Knopps watched Hagen drive the skiff with the kayak in tow to the Abundance as he waited on the beach. Knopps reported taking his eyes off of Hagen for just a moment, and when he looked back up, he was gone.

On Sunday when the family had not heard from him ahead of his flight back to Chicago, Esther Knopps called Hagen's family to check on her husband's expected return time. She learned that Hagen's family also had not heard from the hunters, Elsie Knopps said.

Shortly after that, Hagen's family received a telephone call from the Coast Guard notifying them that a sightseeing ship, the cruise vessel Wilderness Adventure, had found the Abundance abandoned.

"Then the Coast Guard goes into action to ascertain about where they had gone, but no one had left a detailed itinerary," Elsie said.

Elsie Knopps told the Lansing State Journal she and her daughter-in-law spent several hours together knowing that the Coast Guard was searching for her son.

"All of a sudden my daughter-in-law ran up, and said 'they found somebody' and we didn't know who or if he was dead or alive," she said. "About two hours later, she ran up stairs and said, 'It was Adrian. They have him. He's in the hospital.'"

A Coast Guard helicopter crew flying over the area, after passing by him once when he did not have the strength to stand up and wave, spotted Knopps clinging to a tree, his mother said. He was taken to Ketchikan to be treated for hypothermia, his mother said.

Knopps had to leave the shore during his ordeal for a wooded area because the shore was where wolves hunted at night, his mother said.

His only nourishment was from two or three protein bars he had taken in a fanny pack for what was planned to be few hours on shore. During the first day he was stranded he found water in a nearby stream, but as the days wore on he could not go back for more water because of fatigue and deteriorating weather, she said.

Esther said Adrian is feeling better, but that he is having trouble with his legs because after the first day, he spent much of his time standing or pacing. He had been able to start a fire the first day but after that it rained, and he couldn't maintain a fire.

The Coast Guard has reported no trace of the skiff, but the blue kayak was found empty, washed up on shore in Burroughs Bay, JuneauEmpire.com reports.

Sanders is quoted as saying the Coast Guard has not lost hope of finding Hagen. They plan on searching all cabins in the area.

"At this point, we're not in the recovery stage, we're still in search and rescue," he said. "We're not leaving any stones uncovered."

Knopps' mother said Adrian Knopps wants to spend some time with Garrett's family before he leaves Alaska. He is expected to return to Michigan before the end of the month.

The Associated Press and the Lansing State Journal contributed to this report.

 
 

 

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