Podcast: Play in new window | Download | Embed
Alaska State Troopers are investigating the death of a homeless Fairbanks man who was found frozen to death during last week’s extreme cold snap.
KUAC’s Tim Ellis has more.
Troopers identified the victim as 55-year-old Charles Akiviana of Fairbanks.
They say they got a call on the morning of December 23 from a man staying at a hotel off Old Airport Way reporting that he’d discovered a frozen body in a snowbank.
A National Weather Service meteorologist says temperatures dropped to about -32 degrees F on the night of the 22, and the wind chill the next morning was -54 degrees F.
Troopers and Alaska Bureau of Investigation officers responding to the call recovered Akiviana’s body and sent it to the State Medical Examiner’s Office for autopsy.
They found a tent in the woods nearby containing his belongings, including a wallet.
City housing coordinator Brynn Butler says her office wasn’t aware of an encampment in the area, but she learned Tuesday that there are about a half-dozen tents there.
“I will be sure to reach out to any of our people who bring out services to encampments, and see if we can verify the number of people there and get them into housing, like emergency shelter.”
Butler and another Fairbanks homeless advocate says that depending on the outcome of the autopsy, Akiviana’s death could be the first case of a homeless person in Fairbanks freezing to death this year.
Brenda McFarlane coordinates the city’s Crisis Now program, which promotes mental-health services for the homeless. She says the need for those services is growing, And she says it’s especially important to work with Fairbanks-area nonprofits to assist the homeless during winter.
“When we have temperatures like this, there are many agencies that are reaching out and telling people about resources.”
Tribes in South Dakota are still reeling from the recent blizzard that left many stranded without vital resources.
That’s prompted renewed calls for improved aid to make it through future weather events.
Mike Moen reports.
The storm cut off roads to areas such as the Pine Ridge reservation, forcing some residents to burn clothing and furniture to stay warm.
State Rep. Troy Heinert (D-SD) is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and says the conditions there were extremely dangerous, too.
Rep. Heinert says tribes already have limited resources and can only do so much to prepare.
“Considerable investments in roads and bridges and equipment; manpower is going to be needed if we’re going to continue to have storms like this.”
He calls on local, state and federal leaders to ensure infrastructure needs and emergency planning for tribal areas receive priority.
In response to the current storm, South Dakota’s governor ordered expanded National Guard missions to help affected tribes, including hauling firewood from the Black Hills Forest Service.
Rep. Heinert says that assistance was a huge help, but notes residents are still having trouble getting to their livestock.
Tribal governments have their own emergency preparedness plans, but often lack enough snow removal equipment to prevent snowdrifts from swallowing up fields, as well as surrounding roads.
“What we found down here in Rosebud is we had no place to put the snow. There was so much and it was so deep, and it was so heavy.”
And because first responders had trouble reaching homes, Heinert and other local leaders say a 12-year-old boy died after suffering a medical emergency.
Because of term limits, Rep. Heinert won’t be back in office in the new legislative session, but he says he will continue to serve as a voice for remote tribal areas in need of additional support.
Get National Native News delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up for our newsletter today.