John Kittleson, 07-20-99

Anchorage Daily News
Wednesday, July 21, 1999

By Jon Little, Daily News Peninsula Bureau
Soldotna ---A Kenai man drowned in the early morning hours Tuesday after a canoe tipped over in Spirit Lake near Kenai, according to troopers and emergency crews.

The drowning victim was identified by Alaska State Troopers as John Kittleson, 21.

Another person was in the canoe with Kittleson and swam to shore safely, troopers said. He suffered hypothermia but was in satisfactory condition Tuesday afternoon, troopers said. Troopers identified the second person only as a male.

Neither Kittleson nor the other canoeist wore a life jacket, troopers said.

Central Emergency Services' rescue crews found Kittleson's body Tuesday morning in 15 feet of water some 30 feet from shore, CES Capt. Tim Cooper said.

Apparently, the two were out fishing when one of them stood up, tipping the canoe, Cooper said.

The accident's survivor swam to shore, then swam back out to reach Kittleson when he realized Kittleson was in trouble, but wound up having only enough strength to save himself, Cooper said.

Troopers and rescue crews weren't called until 10:49 a.m. Tuesday, several hours after the drowning occurred.

The surviving canoeist reportedly didn't have the keys to Kittleson's car and huddled at a nearby cabin at the lake's shore before hiking off to find the nearest phone Tuesday morning, Cooper said.

Spirit Lake, formerly Elephant Lake, is owned by Salamatof Native Association. The corporation has a recreational boat launch for small watercraft at the lake, which is on the southwestern edge of the Swanson Lake system. Salamatof officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Soldotna-based Central Emergency Services has a trained water rescue team. It has responded to four calls this summer, up from the one or two drownings and rescues it typically handles in a season, Cooper said.
Kittleson's body was sent to Anchorage for autopsy.