2 people found dead in unheated Bethel buildings this week

Kyle Hopkins

Two people died this week after they were found in unheated, dilapidated buildings at sub-zero temperatures in Bethel, police said.

Authorities found a woman cold to the touch at about 11 a.m. Friday in what appeared to be an abandoned home or shed in the riverside, Western Alaska city, said Bethel Police Chief Larry Elarton.

Temperatures in Bethel that day ranged between 7 degrees below zero and 11 below, according to the National Weather Service. Medics drove the woman to the local hospital where she was pronounced dead, police said.

The cause of death was unknown, but police suspect it was linked to cold temperatures in the building, which they described as an abandoned shed or home at 102 East Ave., near the small boat harbor.

"It's really weird that this year we've had more element deaths, or element-related deaths, than we did last year (when the weather was colder)," said Sgt. Chris Salyers.

Elarton said there appears to be a large transient population in Bethel this season. "Whether that changes when the ice road opens up and there's smoother traffic back and forth to villages -- or if that's all winter -- we're not sure," he said.

Police have not publicly identified the woman found dead Friday and have not said whether she is a Bethel resident. Authorities suspect hers was the second cold-related death discovered within four days in the city of about 6,200 people.

Norbert Kashatok was pronounced dead at the Bethel hospital on Tuesday after friends found him without a pulse, lying on the floor of an unheated home near Mission Drive, according to radio station KYUK.

Officials said Kashatok and possibly others had been living in the home without heat, the radio station reported.

Police have said no foul play is suspected in either death.

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