Lloyd Ballot, 05/11/05
Effie Ballot
Danica Cleveland

Snowmachine sinks in Selawik River on hunting trip; two dead, one missing

NORTHWEST ALASKA: Unseasonable weather made conditions dangerous.

By MEGAN HOLLAND Anchorage Daily News

Published: May 14th, 2005

A villager and his niece are dead and another niece is presumed drowned after their snowmachine and sled went through river ice during a hunting trip near their villages in Northwest Alaska, Alaska State Troopers said Friday.

The bodies of Lloyd Ballot, 44, and Effie Ballot, 19, both of Selawik, were recovered from the river. The body of Danica Cleveland, 15, of the nearby village of Shungnak, is presumed to be in the water.

Selawik is a village of about 830 people 90 miles east of Kotzebue surrounded by lakes and rivers.

The trio left for a duck, goose and muskrat hunting trip Wednesday along the Selawik River, searchers said. When Lloyd Ballot did not respond to a VHF radio call Thursday afternoon, family members telephoned for help to look for them.

The skies were clear. Temperatures varied from 30 to 45 degrees, the National Weather Service said.

Selawik Search and Rescue member Raymond Ballot, a second cousin to Lloyd Ballot, said searchers found snowmachine tracks about 2.5 miles downriver from the village. The tracks led to open water, where a bunny boot, a jacket, goggles and a glove floated in the river.

A barrette, "the kind worn by young girls," Raymond Ballot said, was also found on the ice nearby.

Searchers found the snowmachine and sled in the 35- to 40-foot-deep water, Raymond Ballot said.

Lloyd Ballot's body was recovered Thursday night. Effie Ballot's body was found Friday.

Raymond Ballot said Friday evening that searchers believe Danica's body is likely in the same spot. No footprints led into or out of the water; just snowmachine tracks.

Villagers say it has been unusually warm for this time of year.

"It's not cold enough to hold the ice together," Raymond Ballot said. River conditions are dangerous, he said.

He said it is tradition to go hunting in small groups; teenagers often join.

Friend and distant relative Ramona Sheldon said Lloyd Ballot was a humble man who helped around the village. A skilled person who went subsistence hunting nearly every day, he often taught young boys his skills, she said. "He's such a good hunter, he knows where the bad spots are (on the river). This is a surprise," she said.

Sheldon said Effie Ballot, who just turned 19, "liked to follow her uncle all the time. When he went hunting, she wanted to go."

Danica, Sheldon said, always had a big smile.

"It's been tragic," Raymond Ballot said. "The village is taking this pretty hard."

Daily News reporter Megan Holland can be reached at mrholland@adn.com.