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Pastor and his wife celebrated their anniversary with canoe trip. He didn’t make it back

Kayakers paddle on Mendenhall Lake, with Mendenhall Glacier in the background and icebergs in the foreground, on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Juneau, Alaska. Steven Todd Willis, a Nevada pastor, died Monday when a canoe he was on overturned in a river fed by Davidson Glacier, north of Juneau.
Kayakers paddle on Mendenhall Lake, with Mendenhall Glacier in the background and icebergs in the foreground, on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, in Juneau, Alaska. Steven Todd Willis, a Nevada pastor, died Monday when a canoe he was on overturned in a river fed by Davidson Glacier, north of Juneau. AP

A Nevada pastor was in Alaska with his wife to celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary, but he died Monday after a canoe they were on overturned, according to KSNV.

Steven Todd Willis, 50, and his wife boarded a canoe to tour the Davidson Glacier River on Monday morning, KSNV reported.

Alaska state troopers in Ketchikan, a town in southern Alaska, received word that a canoe flipped over “after going into rapids in a river fed by Davidson Glacier,” reported the Anchorage Daily News.

Willis, who was wearing a life jacket, was found unresponsive in the water, the Anchorage Daily News reported. A helicopter lifted Willis out of the water, where responders gave him CPR and “basic medical care,” but he remained unconscious when he was taken to a hospital in Juneau, according to the Anchorage Daily News. He was pronounced dead early Monday afternoon.

“I’m in absolute shock,” the Rev. Thea Racelis, a friend of Willis’, told KSNV. “He was so looking forward to this cruise with his wife and that time away.”

There were 10 people on board the canoe when it overturned, according to KTNV, and everyone was wearing life jackets. Willis was the only person to die.

“We were just together and he was so looking forward to this Alaska trip,” Gary Slavik, a friend of Willis’ who attended First Christian Church of Las Vegas, told KTNV. Willis was the church’s pastor. “How can something like this happen?”

With summer approaching and weather warming, its time to keep these water safety tips in mind, as provided by the Placer County Sheriff's Office.

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