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. Cari

    ok so good the three teens survived and i am sorry for the loss of their father however why did none of them try to help the fourth teen whos life jacket didnt fit what the heck?

    June 6, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • SafeCaptain

      They should have known that the PFD didn't fit prior to leaving the shore. Then they get one that fits or that person doesn't make the trip.

      June 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sierra

      The dad tried to help her, and he pulled her along as he was swimming.

      June 6, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. SafeCaptain

    Waiting to put your PFD on after the boat is pitching and going over isn't really the right time. Sadly this happened but everything in this story leads me to believe that the deceased knucklehead driving the boat probably shouldn't have been

    June 6, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • famfriend

      Before judging read the whole story at (anchorage daily news).

      June 7, 2011 at 1:10 am | Report abuse |
  3. amanda

    I am so sorry for your loss and I will pray for your families and for peace of mind as well. Accidents are horrible no matter how you look at them. I am sorry for all the horrible comments you are all recieving. I know it's hard right now but every day will get a little bit better. May God bless and keep you.

    June 6, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. anthony

    Very proud of the two that swam and survived. You guys are brave and are a fine example of whats best about humanity.
    let that be an example to you both for the rest of your lives. Never give up. Maybe you should both join the Navy Seals.

    June 6, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. jeff

    what a nightmare.

    June 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. famfriend

    The loudmouths and blamers and know-it-alls should take a look at the full article at anchorage daily news ( Sure there were some a few bad decisions but it's allways easy to look back and see what should have been done. It's really a tragic but heroic story. Please read it. I know these girls and they deserve respect and awe, not the BS I read here.

    June 6, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. raven

    Ive seen firsthand how quickly the weather can change on T lake. Its a huge body of water and has its own microclimate in places. its not unusual to be out at nite as it stays light well into evening . My heart goes out to both families.

    June 6, 2011 at 5:41 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jon

    The author of this article appears to have taken a sentence from Wikipedia almost verbatim:

    "The lake is known to be perilous for small vessels because of unpredictable high winds that sometimes blow across it from nearby Tustumena Glacier."

    "This lake has a reputation for being very dangerous to small boats due to the high winds that regularly blow off of Tustumena Glacier."

    June 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Phoenix Starr

    I have been pondering a theory about what gets people killed, murdered,or kidnapped. Even though every rule has exceptions, the answer is: STUPIDITY Know what you're dealing with and deal accordingly!

    June 6, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Miranda Udelhoven

    II am the daughter of Ashely Udelhoven, I survived, Thanks everyone for their support. And to those who called my dad an idiot, it was a stupid mistake, but that doesnt make him and idiot. I loved him, I just wanted to put this out there, for a more detailed report go to

    June 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robin K

      Miranda – sweetie, your father was not an idiot and I am so very sorry you had to read some of the crap posted on here. I guess some people don't have anything better to do with their lives. Unbelievable after what you have been through. You, your sister and your friend were very couragous and we are very proud of your survival skills. Your father was a very good man and was well loved (my brothers and I grew up with Ashely). Most of the folks that are posting have never met him and have no idea what living in Alaska is like. So very sorry this happened-keep all those sweet memories of him alive.

      June 6, 2011 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • tustumena_lake

      I found the things floating in Tustumena and called my wife and we decided to call the troopers to start the search. I am sorry for the losses, but very happy for those of you that made it. Like your family, I too love tustumena. My cabin is up at the far end by the Lake Emma trailhead. I was on my way to it when I discovered the items in the water. Before the planes started flying I searched the shoreline between fox lake and bear creek looking for people since this is where the floating debris was. i searched past bear creek up towards the far end but i was unaware that you had walked that far back towards nurses cabin. I wish that it had been me, but I am glad the refuge folks found you.

      Jim Taylor

      June 7, 2011 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Richard J

      Miranda, I was a neighbor of your dads when we were growing up in the 70's. We shared a common driveway and he was my best friend. I have many many memories of those days. Maybe someday I will get to meet you and tell you stories about the fun stuff we used to do. I will miss him forever.

      June 7, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerermy Yassen

      Miranda, I am the Father of two boys 11 and 9 years old and I am so sorry for your loss but I am sure like your father the only thing I would be praying for if my family met a similar fate would be to hope for the survival of my children and I am sure that your father would be so proud and happy that you survived and would want you to live your life to the fullest, as I know that is what I would want for my boys
      God Bless
      Jeremy Yassen

      June 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Phoenix Starr

    Miranda,please accept my deepest sympathy for the loss of your Dad. I was speaking generically in my opinion post.I pray you and your family will receive many blessings from your community and may you prosper in all that you do, you were very brave in surviving how you did.

    June 6, 2011 at 6:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. amber

    The father died ass hole! Im sure he was very trustworthy or the other parents wouldn't have let him take them! Truly sad my prayers are with all the familys! And the survivors im sure they feel guilty even tho there is nothing they could of done but try and save themselves. Goes to show u to be thankful for everyday u do get with loved ones god bless these familes

    June 6, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Susan

    I grew up in the area where this happened. All of us from our small community are grieving the loss of these two lives. Miranda, we are all so proud of you and so sorry for your heartbreak. Pay no attention to the negative posts as they just don't matter. Your dad was a great man with so many friends.You are in our hearts and prayers.

    June 6, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Steve

    Wow this is sad. Life changes in an instant. They thought they were on their way to fun times....

    June 6, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. wow

    who sets out on a notoriously dangerous lake at 9:30pm at night? lack of judgment.... darwin award served, that man will not procreate again. it is sad a teenager had to pay for his stupidity.

    June 6, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jhuds12

      YOU are the moron, sir. The sun doesn't even set until after 11 PM in Alaska in June. Get a life.

      June 7, 2011 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
    • myfandoms

      Sign your name and address. Don't hide behind internet anonymity to make such heartless, callous comments. You want to say something so horrific? Sign your name to it.

      June 7, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
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