Canoe Drowning Ends with One Man Dead and One Man Missing

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by Russ Slaten

One man is found dead and another is still reportedly missing. Alaska Park Rangers say two men rented a canoe this morning and only one body was found an hour later by other boaters.

The Mat-Su Borough Dive Team responded to the 911 call a little after 10:15 this morning. Other authorities were quickly involved.

Lifetime Adventures, a state contractor that operates many state campsites, rented out a canoe to the two men this morning. Officials identified the men as 70-year-old Michael Francis of Pocatello, Idaho and his brother 55-year-old Randy Francis of Palmer.

"The canoe was rented at 9 a.m. this morning, and there were some other recreationists on the lake, some canoers that spotted a swamped canoe at about 10 a.m." said Alaska Park Ranger O'Conner.

Matanuska Lake is a state recreational area located between Palmer and Wasilla.

The Mat-Su Borough Dive Team responded to the call and recovered the body of Michael Francis. Search efforts for Randy Francis by public safety officials were unsuccessful. MATSAR, Mat-Su Search and Rescue, implemented canines with cadaver sniffing abilities, but still came up short.

Although Lifetime Adventures requires users to take a life jacket, state troopers said it's believed that neither men were wearing one at the time.

"Alaska waters are typically cold year-round. Alaska State Parks is a big proponent of the 'Kids Don't Float' program, and having life jackets available for everybody. We do have a board with the life jackets that are free for folks to use. We encourage anybody that's going to be on the water, or around the water, or on the docks to wear life jackets at all times," said O'Connor.

The search effort for Palmer resident Randy Francis is still ongoing.

The two brothers' family has been notified.