Snowmobile Perils: A four-part series from the Anchorage Daily News

Related stories:

Treading Dangerously: 23 Alaskans have been killed this season; are tougher safety laws needed?

Accident breaks both legs of snowmobiler -- one leg in 16 places

How 24 Alaska snowmobilers died this winter

Share your opinion in the snowmachine forums area

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Web links:

Text of the 1999 study, "Injuries Associated with Snowmobiles, Alaska, 1993-1994," Michael Landen, John Middaugh, Andrew Dannenberg:

Alaska’s new snowmobile trail grant program:

Alaska State Snomobile Association:

Highmarking Risks:

Avalanche Awareness for Snowmobilers:

Iron Dog Gold Rush Classic

Arctic Man Ski & Sno-Go Classic:

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources:

Michigan Department of Natural Resources:

American Academy of Pediatrics snowmobile statement:

International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association:


Alaska snowmachine deaths this season

So far this winter, 23 people have died in Alaska snowmobile accidents – the most in at least a decade. Here's a look at the victims and what happened in each case.

1. Larry Dale Booth, 38
Date: Wednesday, Oct. 27
What happened: Booth of Selawik drowned with fellow snowmachiner Charlie Riley when their snowmachines fell through thin ice near Selawik Lake. They were searching for two ice fishermen, who it turned out were safe in a tent. Booth and Riley’s snowmachines were found in about 6 to 8 feet of water, and their bodies were found floating a short distance away.

2. Charlie C. Riley, 42
Date: Wednesday, Oct. 27
What happened: Riley, of Selawik, drowned with Larry Booth, above.

3. Jesse "Alan" Dicks, 60
Date: Friday, Oct. 29
What happened: Dicks of Lake Louise and the former owner of the Wolverine Lodge drowned when he ignored advice and attempted to drive his snowmachine across the lake the day after it froze over. Troopers said he had been drinking.

4. Robert Ahkpuk, 27
Date: Sunday, Nov. 28
What happened: Ahkpuk of Buckland drowned when his snowmachine broke through the Tuklomaruk River at Selawik Lake around 2:30 a.m. Ahkpuk and five others were returning from a Thanksgiving basketball tournament at Selawik, and all three of the group’s snowmachines went through the ice. Delbert Thomas, 48, pulled the others to safety but couldn’t reach Ahkpuk.

5. John Mayfield, 32
Date: Sunday, Nov. 28
What happened: Mayfield of Koyukuk is presumed drowned when the snowmachine he was riding fell into an open hole in the ice on the Koyukuk River. His body was never found. Mayfield and two companions were going to the liquor store a few miles outside the village. Troopers suspect alcohol was a factor in the accident.

6. Robert Keith Coyne, 37
Date: Sunday, Dec. 26
What happened: Coyne of Wasilla died in an avalanche while highmarking on Skyscraper Mountain around 11:30 a.m. His body was found a day later in 12 feet of snow.

7. Richard Tikun, 27
Date: Sunday, Dec. 26
What happened: Tikun of Bethel was found dead four miles east of Atmautluak after he and companion Richard Pavilla, disappeared Christmas night traveling on the same snomobile toward Bethel. Troopers say both men were intoxicated.

8. Richard Pavilla, 38
Date: Sunday, Dec. 26
What happened: Pavilla of Atmautluak disappeared Christmas night whie snowmachining to Bethel with Richard Tikun. His body hasn’t been found.

9. Jose Payne, 17
Date: Monday, Dec. 27
What happened: Payne of Big Lake was killed while walking beside Pittman Road shortly before midnight when he was struck by a snowmachine driven by Sean Doyle, who troopers say was drunk. Payne was struck from behind as he walked with traffic inside the guardrail, troopers said.

10. Sean P. Doyle, 29
Date: Monday, Dec. 27
What happened: Doyle of Wasilla was killed when he struck pedestrian Jose Payne, above, who also died. Doyle drivers’ license was suspended in 1997 for reckless driving, and he had a history of reckless driving, drunk driving and driving with a suspended license. An autopsy showed his blood alcohol content of 0.23 percent, more than twice the legal limit, troopers said.

11. Martin Aveoganna, 19
Date: Sunday, Jan. 2
What happened: Aveoganna of Barrow was killed and a companion injured in an early morning accident when their snowmachine struck a utility pole guy wire on Eben Hopson Drive.

12. Diane Atkins, 48
Date: Thursday, Jan. 27
What happened: Atkins of Nikiski and husband Danny Atkins, were killed shortly after 10 a.m. when they hit two spruce trees that had fallen across a road near their home off Island Lake Road in Nikiski. Troopers reported whiteout conditions from blowing snow. The couple were on separate snowmobiles, and both were wearing helmets.

13. Danny Atkins, 45
Date: Thursday, Jan. 27
What happened: Atkins of Nikiski died with wife Diane Atkins. See above.

14. Thomas Lee Hicks, 33
Date: Thursday, Jan. 27
What happened: Hicks of Big Lake was found lifeless about 9:30 p.m. near the base of an electric pole off Hollywood Drive near Big Lake. Troopers said he was riding in a heavy snowfall along a utility easement when he struck the pole. He was wearing a helmet and apparently not going fast, troopers said.

15. Todd M. Delaruelle, 35
Date: Monday, Feb. 7
What happened: Delaruelle of Kenai was found lying in a ditch about Mile 20 of the Kenai Spur Highway, his snowmachine on top of him. Troopers say he had attempted to turn on a steep embankment near the intersection with Robert Walker Road when the machine rolled.

16. Brian Randall Craig, 35
Date: Thursday, Feb. 10
What happened: Craig of Kotzebue left town with Charlie Patterson, 21, about 10 p.m. on Feb. 9 in the direction of Noorvik. Their snowmachine broke down about 20 miles from Kotzebue, and they attempted to return home on foot. A storm came up and the pair was separated. Patterson returned safely. Craig’s body was found the next day, three and one-half miles northeast of Nimiuk Point. Troopers say alcohol was a factor in the death.

17. Floyd Nagaruk, 20
Date: Friday, Feb. 11
What happened: Nagaruk of Elim was a passenger on a snowmachine being driven in whiteout conditions by Christopher Kalerak, 17. The accident occurred when the machine bottomed out in a steep ravine on the trail between Golovin and Elim. Kalerak suffered facial injuries and was airlifted to Anchorage. Nagaruk died in the rescue helicopter flight to Nome.

18. Marylunne Wright, 40
Date: Saturday, Feb. 12
What happened: Wright of Delta Junction fell off her snowmachine as she rode along the pipeline corridor. Troopers say she was struck by another snowmachine driven by 23-year-old Maria Alaniz and killed.

19. Britton Erickson, 14
Date: Saturday, March 11
What happened: Erickson of Chugiak had been snowmachining with his family but was off on his own, apparently jumping a small cornice on the bank above the Tokositna River, troopers reported. During a jump, the 500-pound machine snagged on some alders, twisted, tumbled and landed on Erickson, crushing him. His body was found by his father, Timothy Erickson.

20. Herman Motgin, 31
Date: Friday, March 24
What happened: Motgin of Napakiak was found in a hypothermic state on the trail three miles north of Napakiak, lying next to his snowmachine. He was commuting home from his job in Bethel in a strong wind and snowstorm. Though breathing when brought to the village clinic, he had no pulse when health aides arrived a short time later. Troopers say they don’t know why he stopped his machine. It was functioning the next day.

21. Jeffrey P. Romie, 36
Date: Monday, April 3
What happened: Romie of Ekwok disappeared after leaving home April 3. Two days later, his hat and a single glove were discovered on Nushagak River ice six miles south of town, and his snowmachine was found submerged. Troopers presume he drowned, but his body hasn’t been found.

22. Craig Demoski, 26
Date: Friday, April 7
What happened: Demoski of Fairbanks was driving his snowmachine on the road leading to the Arctic Man competition in Paxson when he struck a snowmachine trailer parked on the side of the road. Troopers say he was speeding in an area posted at 5 mph.

23. Walter J. Coty III, 43
Date: Saturday, April 8
What happened: Coty of Fairbanks was highmarking in the Hoodoo Mountains in the vicinity of the Arctic Man events based in Paxson. Though he survived one avalanche, he was buried by the second. His body was recovered the next day in four and one-half feet of snow.

24. Robert Gottschalk, 51
Date: Sunday, April 16
What happened: Gottschalk of Fairbanks was driving his snowmachine in the Broad Pass area off the Parks Highway south of Cantwell when he went off a 40-foot bluff and suffered crushing chest injuries upon impact. His companions, who all stopped at the top of the bluff, estimated Gottschalk was travelling between 50 and 65 mph.

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