By Melinda Munson
A cruise ship passenger called 911 to report a possible drowning at approximately 2:10 p.m. on Friday, May 20.
“We got a call about a person in the water,” said Skagway Police Department Chief Jerry (JJ) Reddick. The police and fire department both responded to the report.
According to Alaska State Troopers, the man, later identified as William Anthony Rodriguez, 32, of Miami, Florida, “jumped into the water and then swam to a near shore where they spent a few minutes before swimming in front of the bow of a docked cruise vessel. The individual began to struggle in the area along the bow and then sank in the water.”
“It’s very cold. Hypothermia will set in quickly,” Reddick said, describing local water conditions.
The U.S. Coast Guard and Alaska State Troopers assisted with Friday’s search to no avail. On Saturday, divers from Juneau and a team with Southeast Alaska Dogs Organized for Ground Search were able to locate and recover the body.
Neighbors of the Assembly of God Church reported a man matching Rodriguez’s description on the roof of the church Friday morning, with both the police and fire department responding.
Rodriguez was a seasonal worker, employed by a jewelry company in Skagway.
In an unrelated event, about two hours after the drowning, police received a call regarding a resident in the downtown area in mental distress.
“Alaska is a beautiful but unforgiving location,” Reddick said. “Sometimes seasonal workers show up unprepared for the remote location we’re in. If you find yourself struggling, please reach out and let us assist you.”
For non-life threatening emergencies, individuals can call Dahl Memorial Clinic at 907-983-2255 for mental health services. In an emergency, dial 911.
“We’re all willing to talk,” Reddick said. “We’re all willing to help. That’s what we’re here for.”
The investigation into Rodriguez’s death has been turned over to the Alaska State Troopers.