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A St. Mary's man died from exposure just before the new year

Gary Paukan, age 37 of St. Mary's, died from exposure on Dec. 30, 2021, according to an Alaska State Trooper spokesperson.
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Gary Paukan, age 37 of St. Mary's, died from exposure on Dec. 30, 2021, according to an Alaska State Trooper spokesperson.

At the end of last year, a St. Mary’s man died from exposure to the cold after becoming separated from his snowmachine party.

The man was Gary Paukan, age 37, according to an Alaska State Trooper spokesperson. On Dec. 29, 2021, Paukan left St. Mary’s on snowmachine with a group of family and friends, and then became separated from them.

The rest of his party began looking for Paukan. Trooper spokesperson Austin McDaniel said that the group found Paukun the next afternoon, on Dec. 30, about five miles northwest of the St. Mary’s airport.

“He had driven over a creek. His snowmachine had become trapped, and he attempted to walk towards assistance,” McDaniel said.

At that point, Paukan was suffering from extreme hypothermia and frostbite. The creek that had trapped his snowmachine had been open and flowing. The search party took Paukan to the St. Mary’s clinic where he died from his injuries. Troopers do not suspect foul play.

The snowmachine party looked for Paukan for a day. Trooper spokesperson McDaniel said that they did not contact troopers for assistance. He reminds Alaskans that troopers can help coordinate search and rescues across the state.

“If your loved one, or family, or friend is overdue back from their trip, then don’t hesitate to call your Alaska State Troopers or local law enforcement and report that person overdue so we can immediately get the operations in motion to assist with a search and rescue operation," McDaniel said.

Anna Rose MacArthur is the KYUK News Director. She has worked at KYUK since 2015 and previously worked at KNOM in Nome, Alaska.
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