Hope fades for missing snowmobiler
HOOPER BAY: Locals believe teen rode into open Bering Sea.
By Anne Marie Tavella, Anchorage Daily News, March 12, 2002
Searchers spent a fourth day on Monday looking for the body of a 17-year-old Hooper Bay boy, believed to have died when he drove his snowmachine into open water on the Bering Sea coast last week.
Milton Bunyan was making the 25-mile trip from Scammon Bay to Hooper Bay with a group of friends Thursday night. He was ahead of the group, but when the others got into Hooper Bay he had not yet arrived, said Greg Wilkinson, Alaska State Troopers spokesman.
Search teams from Hooper Bay and Scammon Bay set out to look for him Friday, Wilkinson said.
On Saturday, searchers found snowmachine tracks, believed to be Bunyan's, traveling southwest from Scammon Bay. The snowmachine was apparently moving at a high speed. The tracks show the snowmachine left the ground several times going over rough spots, Wilkinson said.
The tracks led searchers to an area of open water on the Bering Sea, 17 miles from Scammon Bay. Rescue workers searched the bay without success Saturday and Sunday.
Wilkinson said the current in the area is capable of pulling a snowmachine out of the bay, making the prospects of finding Bunyan's body bleak. Bunyan would be the 16th snowmachine-related fatality statewide this winter.
Hooper Bay is on the coast of the Bering Sea in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
Rescue workers and family in the area remained hopeful of finding Bunyan's body Monday.
George Nanuk, the search and rescue coordinator in Hooper Bay, said the search continued Monday, but was hampered by bad weather. Crews are dragging the bay and using an underwater camera when something is found.
He said the current is not as strong in the area they believe Bunyan's body is, and they are doing their best to find him.
Nanuk said he was like an uncle to Bunyan and described him as a typical teenager, who enjoyed going to ball games and dances.
"He was an outgoing person," Nanuk said.
Bunyan had reached an age where he wanted to explore beyond Hooper Bay, Nanuk said.
Hooper Bay mayor David Bunyan, Milton Bunyan's uncle, said the loss of his nephew adds to a long list of tragedies the village and his family have endured.
In the '80s and '90s, the village of about 1,000 people saw several suicides, David Bunyan said.
Milton Bunyan's father, Louis Bunyan Jr. killed himself at age 33 in 1996, leaving the boy and eight other children behind. Just five years before that, Louis Bunyan Sr., Milton Bunyan's grandfather, died from cancer.
"We've been healing for a long time," David Bunyan said.
Emma Bunyan-Andrew, Bunyan's aunt, said he was a friendly and helpful teenager. He took care of his mother, Judy, and his younger brothers and sisters.
She said the family has accepted the search and rescue has become a recovery effort. Now, they are hanging on to the hope that Bunyan's body will be found, she said.
"We're hoping they find him so we can say good-bye properly and lay him to rest by his dad," Bunyan-Andrew said.
Reporter Anne Marie Tavella can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-257-4343.
Troopers withdraw from search for missing 17-year-old boy
Alaska State Troopers have withdrawn from the search for a 17-year-old Hooper Bay boy who apparently drove his snowmachine into open water earlier this month.
Milton Bunyan had been traveling from Scammon Bay to Hooper Bay on March 7 when he became separated from his group. His snowmachine tracks showed he was moving at high speed. The tracks led into a bay in the Bering Sea about 17 miles from Scammon Bay.
Bunyan's snowmachine was found Sunday in the Bering Sea. A recovery effort has been conducted every day weather has permitted since March 8.
-- Anchorage Daily News