Alaska News

2 hypothermic men rescued after Northwest Alaska snowmachine crash

Two men were found suffering from hypothermia Sunday after they wrecked their snowmachine on a Northwest Alaska trail and one set out walking to find help, according to the Northwest Arctic Borough.

Jonathon Carter, 36, and Elwood Coffin, 27, left Selawik on one snowmachine around 3 a.m. Sunday. Carter drove toward Noorvik, roughly 33 miles away. About 15 miles into the journey, the snowmachine crashed into another snowmachine that had been abandoned on the dark, well-traveled trail, said Chris Hatch, the borough's village public safety officer program coordinator.

The crash left the men's snowmachine disabled, and they suffered minor injuries, Hatch said.

Coffin decided to walk to Noorvik, Hatch said. Carter stayed behind. At some point during the ordeal, Carter poured gasoline from the snowmachine onto the ground in an attempt to make a fire, but in the process he received minor burns, Hatch said.

"He was lucky," he said.

A passer-by found Carter and took him to Selawik, where he was treated for minor burns and hypothermia, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Around 10:15 a.m. Sunday, a call from Selawik reported the crash and a missing man, Hatch said. A search team assembled in Noorvik, Hatch said.


A searcher found Coffin soon after. Hatch said Coffin thought he was walking to Kiana, though the trail to the village was about 25 miles away. Temperatures dipped below zero, Hatch said.

"He was just completely disoriented," he said. Coffin was taken to Noorvik and treated for hypothermia and a minor cut, troopers said.

Tegan Hanlon

Tegan Hanlon was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News between 2013 and 2019. She now reports for Alaska Public Media.