Benjamin Nelson 04-12-08

Snowmachiner's body discovered near Sitka

The Associated Press, Published: April 13th, 2008

Searchers found the body of a snowmobiler today, a day after he was reported missing northeast of Sitka.

Benjamin Nelson, 32, of Hoonah, was pinned by his snowmobile, said Megan Peters, a spokeswoman with Alaska State Troopers.

The body was found five miles from the original search area, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Sara Francis. Nelson's snowmobile was found overturned and his death was not avalanche related as initially believed, Francis said.

Nelson was driving with friends Saturday near Harbor Mountain when he broke away from the group, the Coast Guard said. The friends notified Sitka Mountain Search and Rescue when Nelson did not return several hours later.

The Coast Guard was called in and flew rescuers out in an HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter on Saturday, Francis said. Searchers spotted what looked like a set of snowmobile tracks leading into an avalanche site that appeared to be freshly triggered, prompting the earlier speculation that Nelson might have been caught in the slide.

The helicopter returned to the area Sunday. Chief Petty Officer Steve Harrison said the helicopter was unable to land at the steep, heavily wooded area, but dropped off rescuers for a ground search.

Nelson's body was found shortly after noon, according to Peters. She said the body was recovered and toxicology tests are being performed.