FAIRBANKS - A 31-year Nuiqsut man died while snowmachining at Arctic Man this weekend, according to Alaska State Troopers.
Clayton Kaigelak was reported missing at 11:54 p.m. Friday, after he failed to return from an evening snowmachine ride. Search teams spent the night looking for him but were unsuccessful.
Kaigelak’s body was found trapped beneath a snowmachine at the base of an avalanche just after daybreak Saturday, trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said in a news release.
Arctic Man is an annual snowmachine race that takes place in the Hoodoo Mountains near Summit Lake. Race director Howard Thies was not available for comment, but his son and assistant John Thies spoke to the News-Miner by phone Saturday evening.
Kaigelak reportedly was not wearing a helmet when he was found, but it was unclear whether he went riding without one or if it came off in the avalanche, Thies said.
“I guess he wanted to do one last little ride before they left. He just kind of went out for a quick trip in that direction, a little under 2 miles from camp,” Thies said. “From my understanding, the machine and him were noticeable. They weren’t completely buried. It was a smaller avalanche, but it was enough to get him intertwined with the snowmachine.”
Thies said he was told Kaigelak likely died from a neck injury.
Race organizers had experts on hand throughout the event to inform riders about proper protective gear and avalanche safety.
“We do all we can to help equip them, and help them understand avalanches, but even if you understand one, it doesn’t always help you,” Thies said.
“We’re sorry for the situation and it’s unfortunate it happened. We’re sorry for the family and their loss.”
Kaigelak’s cause of death will be determined by the state medical examiner’s office in Anchorage.
Contact staff writer Dorothy Chomicz at 459-7582. Follow her on Twitter:@FDNMcrime.