Wilbur Small, 52, of Quinhagak died Wednesday on a trail near the village after his snow machine fell through ice. He appeared to have gotten wet and walked about 500 feet from his machine before succumbing to the elements.
Small’s machine was found submerged up to its cowling in Uyaq Slough, located about three miles north of the village. His family had reported him missing Wednesday morning at 8:30. He was found about four hours later by family members who went out looking for him.
Quinhagak’s Village Public Safety Officer contacted the Alaska State Troopers about the incident and a trooper from Bethel responded to the scene to investigate.
It is unclear what Small was out doing at the time. Some believe he was out ptarmigan hunting but Troopers say he had fishing gear with him. It appears that he drove into an open lead of water in the slough.
His body has been sent to the State Medical Examiners in Anchorage for an autopsy.
According to Bethel Search and Rescue, the danger of getting wet is present although temperatures remain cold. According to a written statement by BSAR, “Spring is late, but melting and thawing is occurring none the less.”