A search-and-rescue effort near Dillingham Sunday night ended with the safe recovery of a 14-year-old girl who had walked more than four miles, after Alaska State Troopers say her stolen snowmachine got stuck.
A Wednesday AST dispatch on the case says the girl called troopers to report her situation at about 8:45 p.m. Sunday.
“During a short, broken and emotional phone call, the girl was determined to be lost while operating a snowmachine between Dillingham and Manokotak and her clothing was wet,” troopers wrote.
Although an initial aerial search spotted the girl about eight and a half miles southwest of the Kanakanak Hospital, she’d moved from that spot by the time ground searchers arrived.
“A two-man recovery team was sent out, but once the team arrived at the last known location at (12:35 a.m. Monday), the girl had driven away on her snow machine that was thought to be out of fuel,” troopers wrote. “By this time, her cell phone was either lost or ran out of power. Due to blowing snow, the snowmachine's tracks could not be followed and the weather would not permit another aerial search.”
Four more volunteers joined the rescue effort at 3 a.m. Monday. AST spokesperson Beth Ipsen says they quickly realized that the girl was getting tired as they followed her tracks, which had become footprints.
“They could tell she was exhausted -- she had fallen down a few times,” Ipsen said.
The search party had stopped, and was ready to turn around and regroup just before 4 a.m., when they found the girl on foot about four and a half miles southwest of the hospital.
“They had turned their snowmachines off and they heard her screaming,” Ipsen said. “We got pretty lucky with this one.”
The girl, who had walked four and a half miles after the snowmachine she was riding got stuck in alder trees, was taken to the hospital in stable condition and released Tuesday.
“She wasn’t really that cold; she was just exhausted,” Ipsen said.
Ipsen says troopers also learned that the snowmachine had been stolen. While an investigation is still in progress, troopers believe the girl stole the vehicle, and charges -- which Ipsen says would typically include second-degree vehicle theft in the taking of a snowmachine -- are being forwarded to the juvenile justice system.
Despite the pending case, Ipsen had praise for the snowmachiner’s stamina Thursday.
“She sounds like a really tough girl,” Ipsen said.
Contact Chris Klint