Elderly Koyukuk man safe after night outside

Posted: Monday, December 27, 2004

FAIRBANKS - An elderly Koyukuk man spent a night in zero-degree weather after losing his way on a snowmachine trip.

Benedict Jones, 71, had neither firewood nor a sleeping bag.

A search party found him Thursday afternoon, exhausted and out of gasoline, about halfway between Huslia and Koyukuk in the Interior.

"I didn't have anything, just my clothes," said Jones, who was contacted at his home on Christmas Day. "I just had to stand up and keep myself warm."

Jones, a retired heavy equipment operator, left for Huslia at daylight on Tuesday to take some dog food to the village for an upcoming sled dog race, he said.

He followed an established trail, made it to Huslia without incident and spent the night. At daybreak on Wednesday, he set out for Koyukuk, about 300 miles west of Fairbanks on the Yukon River, but this time snow was falling and wind had blown snow over the trail.

"The trail markers burned up in the forest fires last fall," Jones said. "It was cloudy, and I couldn't find the direction."

"There was some dry twigs off the trail, but my legs were so stiff I couldn't walk so I just stayed with the machine," Jones said.

Rescuers took Jones to a nearby cabin.

"They had to carry me into the cabin," he said. "Once I got into the cabin, I had to lay on the floor to get my strength back."

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