The Kokhanok community is grieving the loss of 17-year-old Alex Nielsen, who was killed Jan. 19 in an ATV accident north of the village.
According to state troopers, Nielsen and a friend were riding an ATV on Iliamna Lake about 12 miles north of Kokhanok Thursday afternoon. They were traveling at an estimated 40 mph when the ATV struck a snow bank. Both riders were ejected as the ATV flipped.
Community members and the health aide responded to the scene. Troopers say Nielsen was killed in the crash, apparently struck in the head by the handlebar of the ATV when it flipped. The other rider sustained minor injuries. The boys were not wearing helmets at the time of the accident, said AST.
Condolences poured in to the Nielsen family Friday, and a fundraising effort was started online to help cover travel costs for the funeral.
Kokhanok head teacher Linda Richter said Nielsen was a promising young man and natural leader.
“Natural born, yep,” Richter said. “It was not a role he wanted, but he was a natural leader. He was never aggressive in any of his leadership roles, people just followed him because he was just a great, a kind person.”
Richter admired his passion for expressing himself through writing, and his love of the outdoors.
“He was outside every time he could be outside,” Richter said. “Riding around, learning. Through Gary and his great granddad he learned history. He loved learning about his culture.”
The young man made an appearance in the 2011 short film “Day in Our Bay: Views and Voices from Bristol Bay Alaska.”
“My name is Alex Nielsen. I’m from Kokhanok, Alaska, and I’m going to be showing you some of the ways we hunt for subsistence food,” he told the camera before felling a grouse from a tree with his shotgun.
In a tragic coincidence, Nielsen’s father Niel was killed in an ATV accident eleven years ago on the same day, according to Anchorage Daily News reports. Nielsen and 13-year-old James Hester encountered severe weather and died of drowning or exposure 20 miles outside of the village. That happened on January 19, 2006.