Monday, October 29, 2007

Tragedy in Kugluktuk


Woman dies in Kugluktuk snowmobiling accident
Husband crawled for six hours in blowing snow to find help, RCMP say

A woman in Kugluktuk, Nunavut, died Saturday night after the snowmobile she and her husband were riding on fell through river ice.
Local RCMP say Mary Jean and Jeffrey Hopkins were snowmobiling along a trail across the Coppermine River, about one kilometre outside of the hamlet, around 7:30 p.m. MT on Saturday.
"He had been travelling on the snowmobile with his wife, and the two became disorientated in the weather with some blowing snow, and they veered off the trail," detachment commander Sgt. Chris Bewsher told CBC News on Monday.
"Doing so, they came close to an open patch of water and their snowmobile subsequently broke through the ice."
The temperature in Kugluktuk Saturday evening hovered near -9 C but felt like -17 C with the wind chill, according to Environment Canada. Visibility was at about 24 kilometres.
Bewsher said Jeffrey Hopkins tried to rescue his wife by rolling on the ice to get close to her, but hypothermia set in.
"He had difficulty walking and subsequently had to crawl back from the scene of the accident to the community — which is a distance of maybe two kilometres — on his hands, by dragging his body," Bewsher said.
"It took him approximately five or six hours to do that, at which point, when he got close to the community, he was able to yell for help and somebody came to his rescue."
RCMP and a Kugluktuk search and rescue crew found the body of Mary Jean Hopkins on Sunday morning. Jeffrey Hopkins was sent by medevac to Edmonton for treatment of advanced hypothermia and frostbite.

Matthew and I have been here for almost two and a half years and Matthew especially has had to deal with a lot of deaths. When we sat down and tried to remember them all, we were well over 20 and knew that we were forgetting some. We are finding it is really taking its toll on us. Last year one of my students at the college committed suicide. And two other students lost their partners to suicide. I don't have it half as bad as my husband and I still find it difficult to deal with. I know there are deaths whether natural/accidental/suicide wherever you are, but here when you know everyone it is very hard.

Our thoughts and prayers right now are with Jeff and the children.


Rob & Tina said...

You are right. The same accidents happen back home, but it's more impacting when you live in a small community where everyone knows everyone else. We have also had our share of deaths here in the short time we have lived here. It never gets easier.

Aida said...

prayers to them. we had our shares of deaths here too. recently a good friend lost his 4 years old boy due to unknown reasons. he thinks its the health centre that dont seem to find the problem and just dosing him up with tylenol. its sad and i am not sure if he is asking for an inquiry. the son died 30 minutes after he was medevac. very sad.

Anonymous said...

How sad. The family is in my thoughts.

When we lived up there, my dad went through the ice while out skidooing, but had enough speed/momentum going that he sort of glugged his way out before the skidoo really went under too far.

It was enough though, to thoroughly soak him, and he immediately turned the machine and pinned it for home. I don't really remember much of what the medical personnel said other than that he was darned lucky. It was one of the scarier things that happened up there, that I remember.

c'est moi said...

It is a really tough thing to cope with and, especially at this time of the year as the sun continues its descent into total darkness. I never really got a handle on this issue. Death seems to come unbidden and unexpected far to often up here. That is the tough part; especially when young people are taken from us. There is something natural when an elder, who had a full life passes but it isn't the case when we loose our young men, women and children. I have found that I cope best by focusing on my energy on my children and connecting a lot with people back home; in a different reality.

Jen said...

This is one of my biggest fears. I hate going out on the ice because I always have this feeling that I am going to fall through.
Isn't the death rate up here higher per capita then in the south?