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Christmas tree shoots rural Alaska teenager, state troopers report

Craig Medred
Creative Commons photo

The holidays couldn't get much worse than they are in the far Western Alaska village of Elim, where on Tuesday a Christmas tree shot a 15-year-old girl.

As reported by Alaska State Troopers, the girl and her brother left the predominately Native community of about 330 on the shores of the Bering Sea to find a holiday tree. Elim is surrounded by spruce forests, and it is traditional for people there to cut their own holiday tree.

That is what the girl and her brother did. They then loaded the tree into a sled, which also contained a .22 caliber rifle. Elim is one of Alaska’s many "subsistence" communities where people commonly  carry firearms into the surrounding woods in case a meal walks into view in the form of a snowshoe hare, grouse or ptarmigan.

Firearms, however, are dangerous tools. In this case, according to a trooper dispatch, "the rifle was loaded and the safety selector off when the trigger was pulled either by a branch from the Christmas tree in the sled or a branch from an overhanging tree.''

The gun went off, and the teenager was unlucky. Though stray bullets miss people more often than not, according to troopers, this one hit her in the "front left shoulder.'' With the help of her brother, she made it to the Elim clinic and was later flown to Anchorage for further treatment.

Contact Craig Medred at craig(at)alaskadispatch.com