Sleetmute Team Drags Kuskokwim For Missing Man
In Sleetmute, community members are still dragging the Kuskokwim River for Christopher Gregory, a young man in his 20s who drowned near the village on Friday.
According to Sam Samuelson of Bethel Search and Rescue, Gregory was trying to water skip across the river with his snowmachine. The weather has been unseasonably warm, and there is no ice on the Kuskokwim for a 40-mile stretch between the villages of Stony River and Red Devil. Gregory fell into the open water and tried to swim to shore, but got caught in the main current.
"You know, when we lose somebody like this it’s always with sadness in our heart. I don’t care who you are," said Pete Mellick, an elder and former chief of Sleetmute. "It's something you don’t expect, you know, if you aren't careful."
The village is working together, non-stop, to find Gregory’s body. Last weekend they were joined by three members of Bethel Search and Rescue and a search and rescue worker from Aniak who were flown out to the village by State Troopers. Sam Samuelson, who was one of the searchers, said that they gave Sleetmute hooks and ropes to drag the river, and taught residents how to use them. A small village of 86 people, Sleetmute does not have a search and rescue organization of its own.
"The search and rescue’s doing a phenomenal job. That’s always a good blessing," said Mellick. "We all need to be together when a disaster happens like this."
Bethel Search and Rescue members are being forced to return to Bethel, weather permitting, after the Troopers called off the search for Gregory, but Sleetmute is going to keep looking for him.
Sam Samuelson added that Sleetmute could use food and money donations - the community is buying gas and cooking for the searchers at the community center. If you’re interested in donating, contact the Sleetmute Tribal Council at 907-449-4269.