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Duke Helmer - ALASKA
Posted by: S. Hamilton (ID *****2074) Date: August 03, 2010 at 20:03:09
  of 462

a tragedy in 1955 near Hydaburg, Craig, Ketchikan Alaska that took the lives of four men and injured another:
Chester Bull, Duke Helmer, Ray Haldane, Al Lehman and survivor Paul Deeds.

I am looking for any family and relations for an Al Lehman that worked as a fisherman in the Ketchikan / Hydaburg / Craig AK area. He was working on the troller Ruth owned by Chester Bull.

according to the death certificate he was born on 6 Mar 1905 location unknown. Again according to the death certificate his father was Ferdinand Lehman and his mother Gertrude Bitters. Searches thru normal genealogical sites show no Ferdinand and Gertrude Lehman families.

The accident occurred on 9/7/1955. The death certificate was not issued until Jun of 1956. Burial was in Craig, AK.

Two articles were printed in the Ketchikan Chronicle, Ketchikan, AK.

The first appeared on 9/8/1955
(typed as appears with known misspellings)
Titled "Troller Ruth of Hydaburg Burns; One Still Alive"
A fishing boat explosion about 70 miles west of here killed four Hydaburg persons last night. One man was reported missing. Another was reported to have survived. An Ellis airlines pilot flew to the scene and reported the men whose charred bodies were left on the deck by the blast were Duke Helmar, Al Leeman, and Ray Haldane. The survivor is Paul Diets and Chester Bull is missing. All were believed to be from Hydaburg.
The tragedy occurred aboard the troller Ruth of Hydaburg. Mayor John Somerville of Craig said the vessel blew up mysteriously between Craig and Hydaburg on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island.
Crew members of a Coast Guard plane, the first to reach the scene, found the burned troller beached on a small island. Hope was held that the missing man may be alive ashore.
Where is Captain?
Bull was said today by Diets who himself was burned about the face and body, to have been blown overboard. He started ashore in a skiff but it overturned and Bull swam for shore. The USCG plane and five Craig boats searched the area, nine miles south of Craig, without finding him today. The burned hulk was ashore on San Baptista island. Helmar was a big, handsome Hawaiian.
"We think the bodies are in the burned out boat," Mayor Somerville told the Chronicle by telephone. Ellis Air sent a plane out to pick up Diet's wife and child to bring them here late today for treatment.
Diets said the blast was caused by himself kicking a gas line to the galley stove, freeing fumes which exploded. The blast blew him out of the galley but trapped the three others inside of it, about 11:10 last night. The Craig boats combed the area all night looking for Bull and brought Diets to town.

The second article appeared in the Ketchikan Chronicle on 9/10/1955
Titled "Bodies Still Aboard Burned Boat"
Arrangements were being made in Ketchikan and Craig to remove the three charred bodies of the men who were killed in a boat explosion and fire Thursday night near Craig.
The U.S. Marshal's office here termed the explosion and resulting deaths "accidental" and the U.S. Commissioner here issued an order releasing the bodies which were still on the burned hulk of the 30-foot Hydaburg troller Ruth.
Only one survivor, Paul Deeds of Hydaburg, remained to tell the story of the explosion which brought death by burning to three men and presumed death by drowning of Chester Bull, 59, the owner of the troller was last seen swimming to shore after escaping from the burning boat in a skiff that overturned. An intensive coast guard search was conducted for him but without result and he is presumed to have drowned.
All from Hydaburg.
The dead by burning were Duke Helmer, 63, Raymond Haldane, 39 and Al Lehman. All were Hydaburg residents but Helmer and Lehman had been in Ketchikan frequently.
Haldane was mistakenly identified by the Daily News yesterday (personal note...do not have Daily News article from 9/9/1955 yet) as his brother, Victor Haldane, who was in the hospital here and flown to the west coast today.
The remains of the troller Ruth are beached on San Juan Baptiste island, near which the explosion occurred. The explosion followed a break in the gas line to the boat's motor which resulted when one of the five men aboard accidentally kicked the gas line.
A Coast Guard marine inspector from Juneau investigated the explosion but declined to release any information. He said his report at this time is "confidential."



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