AP NEWS

Alaska Army National Guard soldier dies in Copper River

June 10, 2019

GLENNALLEN, Alaska (AP) — A 35-year-old Alaska Army National Guard soldier from Fort Greely died when he fell into the Copper River while dipnetting for salmon.

Alaska State Troopers say the body of Sgt. 1st Class Russell Hepler was recovered.

Alaska Army National Guard officials say Hepler was a full-time soldier in the 49th Missile Defense Battalion’s military police company at Fort Greely.

Troopers in Glennallen took a call shortly before 1 a.m. Saturday that Hepler had fallen into the river, known for its fast current, cold water and silty composition.

The river annually attracts hundreds of fishermen seeking sockeye and king salmon with long-handle dipnets.

Hepler’s body was recovered by fishermen in a boat.

Before joining the Alaska Army National Guard, Hepler was in the Florida Army National Guard from 2001 to 2004.

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