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. bekamu

    Miranda, I am sorry for your loss. May the Lord comfort you. My prayers are with you and your family.

    June 6, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • croy

      I agree. I was their neighbor and I knew them. And its true this time of year the sun almost never sets. It is currently 1:00 a.m. here and still light out. U need to stop being that way about this. I mean you don't know the conditions or this man. How would u feel if u said that about you're friend who passed away and I didn't know anything about him?

      June 7, 2011 at 5:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. Benjamin

    The moral of the story is that life jackets are to be worn AT ALL TIMES when boating. The problem with the victim's gear not fitting should have been discovered at the dock, not when the boat capsized in freezing water.

    June 6, 2011 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. prada


    June 6, 2011 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. famfriend

    This article poorly covers the story. Go to Anchorage Daily News ( for the whole story. Quite amazing.

    June 7, 2011 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. famfriend

    Miranda, I know your family and am so sorry about your dad and friend. He was a terrific person. The fact that you girls survived shows how prepared your dad was and how well he raised you. I am so very proud of you and in awe of the strength you girls showed. Ignore those on here that don't know any better.

    June 7, 2011 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jersey

    It's sad that people use a message board, honoring & remembering 2 human beings who lost their lives, for such petty garbage. Karma is a b!tch.. My deepest sympathy to the friends & family members of all involved.. There's an unwritten rule that u do not bury a child... Unfortunately, tragedies happen & we never know the answer to the question "why?" Please respect the people who've passed & their families & if u cant do that, at least have some class

    June 7, 2011 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
    • croy

      Agreed. Thank you jersey you are a good person and I have a lot of respect for you.

      June 7, 2011 at 5:05 am | Report abuse |
    • HaveSomeHumanity

      Thank-you for reminding the many on here that they need to learn how to act! What kind of person sits behind a computer and makes self-righteous, cruel commentary after a terrible accident? What purpose is served?
      These boaters weren't out causing trouble for anyone else, and had planned on making it home alive, I'm sure. What a sad event, but so amazing that the remaining kids made it. In their situation, how many of us would have survived? Not me, that's for sure. If anyone from their family should read this, I hope you can find some comfort in knowing that people you've never met are thinking about and wishing the best for you. So sorry for your loss.

      June 7, 2011 at 5:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. HaveSomeHumanity

    After reading the article on the link some have provided, It appears to me that everyone had been wearing a life jacket, and that part of the reason those remaining three young girls survived was due to the father's (& his wife's) past safety instruction to his children. CNN really does seem to go out of their way to (Unfairly so) make the adult victim sound like an inexperienced dolt on this one. Again, so so so sorry, & good for you, you strong brave girls. You'll continue to pull through life and your recent loss. I don't even know you & I'm proud of you, as many other strangers surely are as well.

    June 7, 2011 at 6:22 am | Report abuse |
  8. del

    Those who survived had life vests. Living in Alaska they should of known better not to cross the lake.Tragic stupidity.

    June 7, 2011 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. jfc1

    this is a load of crap.
    they swam 2 miles through freezing water in 45mph winds with 9 ft swells, and all 3 ended up on shore together? Gimme a break.

    I'd like to see one of them swim 500 yards in that water without freezing.

    June 7, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Zach

    sucks for those that died but those other 3 are major badasses

    June 7, 2011 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. Colt

    If they were all Boyscouts they all would have been prepared ! Atleast the survivors can get there 2miles swimming merit badge.

    June 7, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • clay nelson

      first of all this is alaska not 100 feet off of a highway in ohio boyscouts would not last one day. Second alaska does not care about preparediness. Freak acciddents happen in alaska it comes with the territory. If you listen to alaskan news these tragedies happen all the time. Sad but true. Alaska is the last frontier and the last place to truly test yourself

      June 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. MattInVA

    My sentiments to those in grief from this tragedy.

    June 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ginger

    God does make strong people to survive certain situations..dont be mad that these girls are stronger that you and can swim better than you god knew one day they was going to go through this and gave the father inteligence enough to prepare them...god bless all that survived and the two that was lost..

    June 7, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Alaskagirl

    This is ridiculous. People who have no idea about the incident at hand should not be commenting with thoughtless and absurd remarks. It is disrespectful and only shows how truly stupid you are. Miranda, the girl in the boating accident who saved two other's lives , is my friend and a hero. She was clear-headed in a tragic situation and with her quick thinking, she was able so save her life and the other two girls. Anyone who believes they weren't correctly prepared for their trip knows nothing about Alaska or the family. It would be greatly appreciated if you stopped commenting and do something better with your pathetic live.

    June 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. NotYou

    Idiot commenters.....real live people were killed in this tragic accident. YOU who think this is the time to wag your finger with your holier-than-thou smart ass comments are useless sorry excuses for human beings.
    SHAME on you.
    As for the friends, families and communities of those lost...know that people care. Love!

    June 7, 2011 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • nick jordan

      How sad - I'll pray for the survivors before bed tonight. May God comfort them ...

      June 7, 2011 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
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