Canoe Company in Hot Water After Tourist Dies in River Excursion

On July 30 of this year, Pastor Steven Todd Willis, 50, and his wife arrived at the Alaska Excursions tour company to celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary with a canoe ride down the Davidson Glacier river. Later that day, Alaska State Troopers received an emergency call that a capsized canoe had washed up on shore and a man was seen floating nearby. Minutes later, State Troopers, the Coast Guard, and local police and fire department personnel rushed to the scene. A helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Air Station spotted Pastor Willis’ body in the river and was able to retrieve and bring him to land, where he was found unconscious. EMTs performed CPR immediately and provided him with emergency medical care, but he remained unresponsive and was ultimately pronounced dead at 1:00 PM that afternoon. He was still wearing his lifejacket.

According to troopers, the river was at a higher elevation than usual. “It appeared the engine didn’t start immediately when they got into the rapid water and were overcome by the current. [The canoe] overturned in high water not long after it was launched from the head of the river.” troopers spokesman Tim DeSpain said.

However, according to statements by Alaska Excursions former employees including a former manager, the company is routinely negligent in maintaining company vehicles traveling to and from Glacier Point, “The maintenance on the skiffs, buses, ATVs, and canoe motors was extremely spotty, and it was often very hard to get a mechanic to come out, even when we were on the verge of not being able to run the trip,” one former employee stated. Several other employees reported that they were even pressured to provide tours during bad weather. Alaska Excursions owner Robert Murphy and some other employees rejected the group’s statements.

When is a Company Responsible for My Injuries?

Alaska personal injury law says that any person or company that is negligent is liable or responsible for injuries and damages that result, but Alaska also enforces a law called comparative negligence to decide who is liable. This means that if you were injured and you were also negligent, the person or company you are suing in only responsible for a percentage of the damages you incurred. For instance, if you are in a car accident in which the person ran into the back of your car while speeding and you were illegally parked on the road, the jury may find that being illegally parked in the road accounts for 20% negligence on your part and 80% negligence on the part of the person who ran into your car while speeding. Ultimately, you would be awarded 80% of your total damages. However, in cases of strict liability, if the person or company engages in a dangerous activity—such as hosting a canoe tour during unsafe weather—the company that facilitated the activity may be automatically liable.

Suing for Personal Injury in Alaska

At Power & Power Law, our goal is to help people who have experienced injuries at the fault of another person’s or company’s negligence and to make filing a lawsuit a positive experience for you and your loved ones. Our team is compassionate, professional, and knowledgeable in personal injury lawsuits and is committed to working hard on your case. If you have a personal injury claim in Alaska, contact us at 907-222-9990 for a complimentary evaluation of your case, or visit us online and complete the consultation form. For information about our firm please, visit our homepage and learn more about how we can help you.