ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A man found his missing friend dead during a bear hunting trip on Alaska’s Kodiak Island, but said Friday he and another hunting friend initially thought the man had stormed off in frustration as he had done in the past.
Aleksandr Neverov told The Associated Press he found the body of 39-year-old Viacheslav Akimenko on Monday. That was six days after the 39-year-old Delta Junction man went missing at Sturgeon Lagoon when he left his party to go on a hike.
Neverov said Akimenko was fed up with the constant wind and rain on the desolate western side of the island and became antsy waiting for the plane set to pick them up that was slow in coming. He wanted to go home early from the hunting trip that began April 28, spending much of the time waiting out the weather in a tent, according to Neverov.
“He didn’t want anything to do with that island. It just got to him mentally,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s not like he was causing trouble or acting out. He straight up said, ‘I don’t want to be here, and I want to go home.’
“There was no argument, no fights,” he said. “Nothing like that.”
Instead, he grabbed a rifle “and booked it for the hills.”
Neverov said the last thing he heard his friend mumble was, “I’ll find my own way home,” as he walked away from camp.
Neverov said his friend had disappeared in a similar way in the past, only to show up days later as if nothing had happened.
There was no indication that Akimenko had harmed himself or been mauled by a bear, according to Neverov, 33.
“No signs of anything,” he said.
Alaska State Troopers are investigating, and an autopsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death, troopers’ spokesman Tim DeSpain said in an email to the AP.
Neverov, who also lives in Delta Junction, suspects his friend either had a heart attack or might have been poisoned by something he picked up and ate. He said he found a root in his friend’s pocket that had been shaved off the sides for consumption.
Every time the two are out in the woods, Neverov said, Akimenko would always eat things he found, from berries to mushrooms.
“Some stuff I don’t know and I won’t put in my mouth, and he’ll cut a piece off and try it,” Neverov said of his friend. The two would go fishing or hunting once a week, and Akimenko would show up at Neverov’s cabin daily.
He said he had poor cell reception and could only text. He was eventually able to text with an Alaska State Trooper, who made arrangements to fly to the site the following day.
Few details were outlined in an online trooper report on the case that was posted Thursday.
According to the report, Akimenko and Neverov chartered a flight from Kodiak to Sturgeon Lagoon, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west, for the hunt, along with 30-year-old Mikhail “Mike” Malyk of Palmer.
The trio was scheduled to be picked up by plane on Wednesday, but Akimenko and Malyk decided to leave a week earlier.
When their plane arrived to collect them on May 8, however, Akimenko had already left camp, Malyk and Neverov told the pilot.
Malyk departed camp and eventually went back to Palmer, while Neverov stayed and looked for Akimenko, covering miles in a search that included a visit to a small village. No one there had seen the missing man, locals told Neverov.
On Monday afternoon, he found Akimento’s body lying next to his jacket and the rifle about a mile (1.6 kilometers) from their camp.