The glacier is dropping chunks of ice into the water. City spokeswoman Sheri Pierce said the cause of the deaths is under investigation but that it's possible falling ice or ice moving in the water knocked them out of the inflatable canoe. Pierce emphasized that it's not clear what happened because there were no witnesses.
"The glacier is shedding ice. It's a very dangerous situation to be back towards the toe of a glacier when you have those types of unstable, large pieces of ice in the water," she said. One of the victims was found on an ice floe and two were floating in Valdez Glacier Lake. All three were wearing life jackets, but they didn't have on wetsuits to protect them from the frigid water.
"That water is glacier water, and it is so, so very cold," Pierce said. The bodies were recovered after a kayaking guide reported what appeared to be dead people, Pierce said. City officials initially said the dead were kayakers.
The glacier and lake are a popular destination for locals and tourists alike, offering stunning views against a mountain backdrop a short drive from Valdez. In summer, attractions include kayaking, camping and hiking. In winter, people snowshoe or snowmobile across the frozen lake.
Meanwhile, another German resident died in an unrelated car wreck in Alaska this week. Alaska State Troopers say 58-year-old Jurgen Klos of Dortmund died Tuesday in a crash on a remote stretch of highway. Klos was driving an SUV that crashed into a tanker truck, whose driver was not injured. His passenger was flown to an Anchorage hospital for evaluation.