Frank DeNardo 09-12-09

Boater missing after vessel sinks in Yukon

The Associated Press, September 13th, 2009 TANANA -- Alaska State Troopers say a boater is missing and feared drowned on the Yukon River.

Troopers took a call Saturday night that a boat with three people on board had sunk 50 miles downriver from Tanana between Flora and Weir islands.

A HAM radio operator reported that the boat overturned as it sank, trapping one of the boaters.

The other two people on board were rescued.

Troopers flew to the area Sunday morning.

Tanana is 130 miles west of Fairbanks. The name of the missing person was not immediately released.

79-year-old dies trapped in sinking boat on Yukon River

FLIPPED: Back problems kept him from escaping, wife says.


Published: September 14th, 2009

The DeNardo family of Fairbanks was nearing the final leg of its annual moose-hunting trek down the Yukon River on Saturday when something went wrong.

One of the three boats -- the skiff carrying 79-year-old Frank DeNardo and his wife, Sharon -- inexplicably slowed. Then it began to sink.

As the water rose, Frank found himself trapped at the wheel in the covered cabin. Sharon grabbed her husband's hand. But Frank had back problems. He couldn't get out, Sharon said in a phone interview from Fairbanks.

'They kept saying, 'Sharon, jump. Sharon, grab the boat, grab our boat.' And I said, 'I can't leave Frank.'

"And all the sudden he let go," she said.

The boat never flipped in the incident about 40 miles from Tanana, but searchers recovered the skiff to find Frank's body still in the cabin late Saturday afternoon, Sharon said.

She said others in the group "grabbed me and put me in the other boat. So I was there. I could have gone down with him. It was that close."

Each fall since the early 1970s the family has boated roughly 200 miles down the Yukon River to hunt and fish, according to a family Web site:

"We have made life long friends on the river with people from Tanana and Ruby," the site says. Family members have written a tribute there to DeNardo's late wife, Ann, who died in 2003 and was an activist for mental health services in Fairbanks, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Sharon DeNardo, who married Frank in 2005, said the five family members launched the trip Thursday at the Yukon River bridge. Her husband, beset with health problems, wanted to make at least one more trip down the river.

By Saturday morning, troopers said, they'd passed the largely Athabascan village of Tanana.

"We floated over 160 miles to save gas, so we could run the boats to go moose hunting," Sharon said.

They switched to motors about 40 miles from the Nowitna River, where the family planned to make camp. But Frank DeNardo's boat wasn't working right. He figured it was a fuel or filter problem, Sharon said.

The family agreed to stop at a nearby cabin and see what was wrong. That's when DeNardo's boat inexplicably began filling with water.

DeNardo's son and daughter stayed in the area for the search. Sharon said she couldn't bear to be there.

"Every time I looked into the river I thought about him," she said.