A Washington man who was diving during a gold-dredging operation off Nome died late Wednesday, according to Alaska State Troopers.
In a Thursday dispatch, troopers say they received a report at about 10:40 p.m. Wednesday of an unresponsive diver from the dredge Argo, a roughly 50-foot-long landing craft which had been working about a quarter-mile offshore about four miles east of Nome. The diver was later identified as 39-year-old Seattle resident Sean Beals.
“At approximately (10:30 p.m.), the dive tender working topside observed the diver floating face-down in the water,” troopers wrote. “The tender summoned assistance from another crew and attempted to save the diver. (Beals) was transported to Norton Sound Medical Center where he was declared deceased.”
Although troopers say there aren’t any signs of foul play, AST spokesperson Megan Peters says few details are available about what Beals was doing at the time of his death.
“We don’t know why he died,” Peters said. “We don’t know if he drowned or had a medical emergency.”
An August 2013 profile of longtime diver Igor Sudarkin by radio station KNOM lists him as co-owner of the Argo, a 44-foot gold dredge.
Troopers say Beals’ next of kin have been notified, with his body being sent to the state medical examiner’s office for an autopsy. Peters says the U.S. Coast Guard is also investigating the event as a major marine incident.
Beals is the second Washington man to die while working in Alaska in two days, after troopers say a Tuesday logging accident near Ketchikan claimed the life of Castle Rock resident Kenneth B. Butkovich, 51.