Alaska teens swim miles against 9-foot waves to survive lake nightmare
Tustumena Lake is a 25-mile-long, six-mile-wide body of water in south central Alaska.
June 6th, 2011
10:52 AM ET

Alaska teens swim miles against 9-foot waves to survive lake nightmare

Three teenagers survived a brutal Alaska lake excursion that killed a father and one of their young friends.

Around 9:30 p.m. Friday, the man, Ashley Udelhoven, two of his daughters and two of their friends set out by boat to spend the weekend at a public cabin on the north shore of Tustumena Lake, a 25-mile-long, six-mile-wide body of water in south central Alaska. The lake is known to be perilous for small vessels because of unpredictable high winds that sometimes blow across it from nearby Tustumena Glacier.

The water was calm when the group began the journey. But Udelhoven decided to cut across the lake to save time, rescue officials told the Anchorage Daily News. About that time, winds picked up - blowing up to 45 mph - and the 18-foot boat filled with water. The surviving teenagers later told rescuers that they had seen swells as high as 9 feet.

The teens said the boat rocked violently, and everyone went overboard. As Udelhoven struggled in the freezing water, he began talking nonsense, a sign of hypothermia, the newspaper said.

One of the teenagers struggled to put on her life vest, which was too big and kept slipping, an official said.

The remaining three teens swam more than two miles back to shore, reaching land about 3 a.m. Saturday. They walked to a cabin, where they ate food and huddled for warmth, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, another boater spotted debris and a cooler floating on the lake that had Udelhoven's name and phone number written on it. The man called his wife, and she called troopers.

Rescuers found the bodies of Udelhoven and one of the teenagers - the one who struggled to put on her life vest - early Saturday evening, and the three surviving teens were found on land shortly after, the Daily News reported.

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Filed under: Alaska
soundoff (159 Responses)
  1. kp

    father should be held accountable criminally

    June 6, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrick


      June 6, 2011 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      Why.....he ought to be given an award for actually spending time with his children.

      June 6, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • i cant believe is not butter

      I hear it...sorry

      June 6, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Corvus1

      He's dead, not much more you can do to him.

      An award? Really? For doing something he's supposed to be doing anyway? Don't be stupid.

      June 6, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Albert911emt

      kp – You suck at reading comprehension. The father is dead. He drowned after the boat tipped. How exactly do you propose he be charged?

      June 6, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • iamthefreman

      As comedian Chris Rock would probably say " Yo, Mo*** Fu**** he DEAD ! HE DEAD !!!! That was one dumb-azz M**F**r crakerhead to go on a freezing lake at 9:30 at night. "

      June 6, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CSnSC

    Uh, wouldnt freezing water be...solid ?

    June 6, 2011 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      Not if there is a current 🙂

      June 6, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Corvus1

      Someone had to cheat to get beyond kindergarten, I see.

      June 6, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  3. brian

    Father held responsible really man died in a tragic accident let him live in peace

    June 6, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
    • i cant believe is not butter

      He died? How can he live ,if he died?? : (

      June 6, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Corvus1

      Tragic accident? More like bullheaded stupid mistake. He knew the risks and decided "saving time" was more important. I'm just sad one of his kids had to pay the price.

      June 6, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. onlysaneone

    All of u people responding with such assinine remarks are true idiots

    June 6, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. Psycho Mantis

    The actual article this message board is for is f.ucked up. Why would a father put his daughter and her friends at risk like that? Regardless, it's going to be a terrible aftermath for their community. I wonder if we'll hear anything more about this story.

    June 6, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • famfriend (anchorage daily news)

      June 7, 2011 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. Artamis

    This is why they tell you not to cross the lake to save time.

    June 6, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JEN


    June 6, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini

    Sometimes we take a big risk and get away with it.
    Sometimes we don't.

    June 6, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Deb


    June 6, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mark


    June 6, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. pete

    probably a very cold lake, water in the 30's? Amazing they could swim that far in those conditions.

    June 6, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
  12. adam

    brandon from ok: Is there a reason you are posting your babble on this article?

    June 6, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JMysh

    Unbelievable! No. Really. It's not believable. Water cold enough to throw an adult into hypo-thermia, swimming miles in water for hours against nine-foot waives? I hope there was some real investigation here. Doesn't sound right.

    June 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • iamthefreman

      I agree. The whole story is fishy. Why would anyone who knows the lake go out at 9:30 at night? How did the man get hypothermia so quickly, but no one else did? How could they swim for over 5 hours in the same water and NOT get hypothermia? Please investigate. Maybe Sarah Palin was behind this...............

      June 6, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • noseawl

      Just a little perspective from an Alaskan. The reason that they were on the lake at 9:30 pm is that the sun was still up. It is not unusual in Alaska to start a trip late in the evening after work. As for the waves, I have been out on this lake and it can go from dead calm to the conditions mentioned in the article in a very short amount of time. That said, it doesn't happen that often, so people cut across the lake all the time. It is a big fricken lake, so it would take you a long time if you just followed the shore. Hypothermia affects people in a variety of ways...some people are more affected more quickly than others. The dad died trying to save the life of a young girl. He could have left her, but he didn't. The energy he used trying to pull her to safety may have cost them his life. The young girls are amazing. To swim to shore and then hike to a cabin. Amazing.

      June 6, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. pointless1

    I'm sorry but why again were they struggling to put vests on? They should have been wearing them. This is simply natural selection in the works.

    June 6, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • famfriend

      They were wearing them. They just got caught by unpredictable weather and cold water.

      June 7, 2011 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
  15. Rebekah

    Sending prayers for the families and the survivors. What a story of surviving for the ones who were able to swim to the shore – but still incredibly sad to have to endure the death of a parent and a friend.

    June 6, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Trebec

      Kelly, why are you so cold?

      June 6, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      So God killed these people?

      June 6, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • amanda


      Why do you if care if someone else sends prayers? If you don't believe they work, that's fine – in fact I don't believe they work either. But some people do beleive the work. So, why can't you just let them be. You wouldn't want someone else pushing their religious views on you, so why do you have to push your anti-religious views on them. Anyone who would get that angry at someone for "sending prayers" is truly a piece of crap.

      June 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ivan Libya

      Of course prayers don't work... just think about it. God has a master plan. It's a divine plan. So if you prayed and he changed his mind, that would mind any "Joe Blow" could change the divine plan, which is not likely to happen. So if God creates a plan, and he knows best, than you have to say he was okay with these people dying, in which case there is no need to pray.

      June 6, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pinky212

      Ivan, we don't pray to convince God of anything. We pray for what we want, but that His will be done. You have demonstrated your ignorance about Christianity. Now go back to your video games so you don't embarrass yourself anymore.

      June 13, 2011 at 4:34 am | Report abuse |
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