Alaska National Guardsman identified as man who drowned in Copper River

Sgt. 1st Class Russell Anthony Hepler seen with his family during his last promotion ceremony earlier this year. (Courtesy: Alaska National Guard)

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The man who drowned while dip netting in the Copper River early Saturday morning has been identified as an Alaska Army National Guardsman.

Alaska National Guard officials say Sgt. 1st Class Russel Anthony Hepler, 35, was dip-netting with his wife, Shandra Hepler, in Copper River near O'Brien Creek, south of the town of Chitina when he was swept away by the current. Attempts were made to save Hepler but he was carried downstream.

Hepler was found in the river after he had drowned, by fishermen. They pulled Hepler into the boat and contacted the Alaska State Troopers.

Hepler joined the Alaska Army National Guard in 2007 after first joining the U.S. military in February 2001. He was a full-time Army National Guard Soldier in the 49th Missile Defense Battalion's Military Police Company at Ft. Greely. He was assigned there from 2007 to 2014, and again from 2017 to present. He also served in the Alaska Army National Guard as the readiness non-commissioned officer in Ketchikan from 2014 to 2017.

A memorial service will be held for Hepler on Tuesday, June 11 at 2 p.m.

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