Thomas Parker, 09-17-05

Gunshot wound kills hunter

HELP CAME TOO LATE: Gun discharged during boat loading, hitting Wasilla man.

By MEGAN HOLLAND Anchorage Daily News

Published: September 20, 2005 Last Modified: September 20, 2005 at 02:35 AM

A Wasilla man died after a gun accidentally fired while he and his partners were loading a boat during a caribou hunt northwest of Lake Louise, Alaska State Troopers said.

The group had gone in by boat from Lake Louise and were camped about where Tyone Creek meets Tyone River, said Neil Thomas, 25, one of the five hunters. Thomas Parker, 39, was loading gear, including the hunting rifles, on Friday around 9 p.m., when he was shot in his upper leg.

Thomas and Clint Nunley, brother-in-law to Parker, said they do not know whose gun fired or how. They do not know if someone forgot to remove the bullets out of the rifle's firing chambers or if the safety malfunctioned.

"We don't want to know whose it was. To know would devastate them," Nunley said. "It was a tragic accident."

Parker was bleeding badly from the wound near his hip but he was still conscious, Thomas said. Two tourniquets were applied to the wound to stem the bleeding. The hunters switched on an emergency locator transmitter to call for help from over-flying planes, but there were no planes, Thomas said.

The hunters loaded Parker into the boat. Thomas and Parker's son, 22-year-old Benjamin, were trying to get Parker to Lake Louise. The trip, which took three hours the day before, would take them six hours.

In the river, grass clogged the boat's engine, Thomas said.

The trio made it to a cabin on Tyone Lake where they asked a man to borrow his boat to continue their trip. "We had to convince him it was a matter of life and death," Thomas said.

"Tom even offered to buy the boat," he said.

At the cabin they also radioed for help.

Thomas said a rescue boat was sent, but the two boats missed each other by passing on opposite sides of an island.

Thomas said the trip across Susitna Lake and Lake Louise was dark, the rain pounded and heavy winds blew up big white-capped waves.

"We couldn't stop shivering," he said.

"Tom was getting drenched with water. He was at the bottom of the boat."

When they got to the Wolverine Lodge on Lake Louise, Parker was still conscious, Thomas said. A military helicopter from Fort Wainwright picked him up and headed back toward Fairbanks.

Fairbanks Memorial Hospital told troopers that Parker died on the way. Family members were told he bled to death, they said.

Also on the hunting trip were Mark Nunley, 24, of Wasilla and Josh Dinwiddie, 24, of Wasilla, troopers said.

Daily News reporter Megan Holland can be reached at