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Nushagak River search finds no sign of missing hunting guide

August 30, 2011

By Casey Grove, Anchorage Daily News

The official search for a hunting guide missing in Southwest Alaska has been called off after two days of investigation failed to turn up any sign of the man, Alaska State Troopers said.

Brian R. Murray vanished Saturday on the Nushagak River. Murray, 44, is now presumed to be dead, troopers said.

Murray, an assistant guide from Fairbanks, had dropped off some people at a hunting camp about two hours upriver from the village of Koliganek, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Murray then headed farther up the river to break a new trail for an upcoming hunt, Peters said. He was last seen launching a skiff and was not wearing a flotation device, the troopers spokeswoman said.

Another assistant guide found the skiff about 10 minutes later. "The boat was just floating on the river," Peters said.

Hunting guide Donald Duncan notified troopers in Dillingham that Murray was missing. A search by air and river -- including troopers in a plane and helicopter, another private helicopter from Tucker Aviation and three private boats -- followed, and after searching Saturday night and all day Sunday until 8:30 p.m., Murray was still missing, troopers said.

Troopers canceled their search and rescue operation and notified Murray's next of kin, Peters said.

"We believe that he is deceased under the water somewhere," Peters said.
"There's no indication he got off the boat and is on shore someplace."

Troopers flying in the area will continue to look for Murray, but there is no ongoing, official search for him, Peters said. Other hunting guides and private boaters would likely keep searching, she said.

Peters said all boaters should wear life jackets when on the water. "Even if they don't guarantee your survival, they give you a fighting chance to be saved or self-rescued," she said.

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

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