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.