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Child's death in Western Alaska village under trooper investigation

Lisa Demer,Zaz Hollander

Alaska State Troopers on Friday were investigating the death of a young child in the Southwestern Alaska village of Tununak but as of 9 p.m., had announced no arrests.

They interviewed a person who earlier in the day had barricaded himself into a house.

Troopers provided few details, including the subject's relationship to the child or how the child died. They received a report of the child's death at 12:52 a.m. Friday, trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said in an email. They went to the village to find out the circumstances and cause.

"While investigators were in Tununak, they were made aware of a barricaded subject," Peters wrote email. The person was barricaded in a home, she said in a brief interview. They were able to approach the person -- villagers said it was a man -- and were interviewing him in the late afternoon, Peters said.

The village public safety officer, Carl Inakak, found the child's body Friday afternoon on the beach, the officer's wife, Tracy Inakak, said. The child is their 2-year-old nephew, she said.

The situation led the Lower Kuskokwim School District to close the village school on Friday, said Jacob Jensen, district superintendent.

The VPSO alerted the Tununak principal to an ongoing incident, and around 7 a.m. the principal called the district, Jensen said. The Tununak school has about 115 children in grades kindergarten through 12. The district also put schools in two nearby villages, Newtok and Toksook Bay, in "stay put" mode, alerting staff to be extra vigilant but not lock down classrooms, the superintendent said.

"The troopers are on scene and they've been there for about five hours now," Jensen said around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon. "There was never any danger to students, staff. Any time in a remote village something like that happens, we have to be cautious."

Tununak, a village of about 325 people, is on Nelson Island on the Bering Sea coast. It's west of Bethel.

Reach Lisa Demer at ldemer@adn.com or 257-4390. Reach Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com.


By LISA DEMER and ZAZ HOLLANDER
Anchorage Daily News