August 2, 2019 / 12:28 AM / 16 days ago

Alaska boaters likely killed by falling glacier ice, officials say

ANCHORAGE (Reuters) - The bodies of three boaters from Europe who died in an Alaska lake were surrounded by frozen debris, a sign that the victims were killed by ice that fell from the melting glacier that feeds the lake, officials in the city of Valdez said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows the terminus of the Valdez Glacier, located east of Anchorage, Alaska, U.S., July 30, 2019, in this still image from video obtained via social media. Open Earth Project via REUTERS

The victims were identified by the city as two Germans and an Austrian and were found dead on Tuesday morning in Valdez Glacier Lake, about 120 miles (193 km) east of Anchorage.

The victims were found in an area that “was littered with floating icebergs, glacial slush and challenging terrain for recovery,” said a statement released by Valdez city officials.

Those conditions, plus the location of the remains near the toe of Valdez Glacier, suggested that falling glacial ice killed the boaters, said Sheri Pierce, a spokeswoman for the city government.

“Because of the ice debris in the area where they were found, that is what leads us to suspect that is what happened,” Pierce said.

One of the victims had severe head trauma, the city said earlier in the week. The case is being reviewed by the state medical examiner’s office to determine the cause of death, Pierce said, adding that there were no eyewitnesses to the incident.

The victims were identified as Manfred Brida, 62, of Austria, and Maria Elisabeth Schroer, 68, and Albrecht Paul Thomas Schroder-Shroer, of Germany.

The three had been boating in an inflatable canoe-type craft, which was recovered from the scene, along with the victims’ other belongings. The bodies were discovered Tuesday morning by kayakers.

Valdez Glacier has been retreating dramatically and shedding ice into the lake, which is expanding, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Falling glacial ice has caused other deaths in the past in Alaska and other northern regions.

A 32-year-old hiker was killed after glacial ice fell on her last summer, and on the same day in a different location, a 5-year-old boy hiking with his family was killed by a large rock that tumbled off a different glacier.

Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Osterman

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