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Melton Ozenna

Harpooned whale flips boat, kills Alaska hunter

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A whale hunter working in the Bering Strait died after his boat was flipped by a harpooned gray whale, state police said last week.

Melton Ozenna, 41, of Little Diomede, died on Wednesday morning from a head wound sustained when the bow of his boat struck him, Alaska State Troopers said.

Ozenna and several other local men were hunting whales about 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Little Diomede, a rocky island in the Bering Strait near the Alaska-Russia maritime border. One of the four hunters on Ozenna's boat had harpooned the whale before it came up under the vessel and capsized it, sending its occupants into the sea, the troopers said.

Hunters from nearby boats rescued the men, but they saw that blood was running from Melton's ear and that his eyes were glazed and dilated, the troopers said. He stopped breathing after about 10 minutes.

Little Diomede, about 650 miles (1,040 km) west of Fairbanks and less than 3 miles (5 km) east of Russia's Big Diomede Island, is home to about 150 Eskimos.

Under federal law, only Native Americans may hunt whales and other marine mammals, and only for traditional subsistence purposes.

Source:  Reuters News Service, 1 July 2002



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