The state medical examiner has ruled hypothermia as the cause of death of Alexis Magalong, an 18-year-old high school senior who was found dead Saturday near Unalaska’s Summer Bay.
“All physical evidence and information supports that, for whatever reason Alexis had, she drove out on Summer Bay (Road) on Friday, late afternoon/evening, and drove almost all the way to Morris Cove,” said Interim Police Chief John Lucking. “That’s where her vehicle was found. It was stuck and the tire was shredded, and there’d obviously been efforts to get the vehicle free.”
With her car stuck, Lucking said, Magalong began walking toward town in a heavy winter storm. Following an overnight search, her body was found Saturday, Feb. 8, around 9:30 a.m., about a mile and a half from the vehicle.
“She walked a mile and a half, all the way to Summer Bay, in slushy, windy, stormy, horrible weather,” Lucking said. “At some point, she probably became disoriented and hypothermia took over. And very sadly, I think she laid down.”
While Magalong had a cell phone with her, Lucking said, she wasn’t able to call for help before she died.
“There are a couple of intermittent spots that, under best conditions, a signal can be received between those places,” he said. “But weather would have been a significant factor for reception, and I would guess that there was no availability of signal at all at the time.”
Lucking said there is no reason to suspect foul play.
“We talked to some people who saw her going out to Summer Bay,” he said. “So we know she was alone in the vehicle when that happened.”
Lucking declined to comment on whether alcohol or drugs were factors in Magalong’s death. He said it’ll be six to eight weeks before he receives the results of a toxicology analysis.
Meanwhile, Magalong’s family, friends and classmates are mourning her death.
Counseling has been available to students and staff during school hours. This Sunday, Feb. 16, the St. Christopher by the Sea Catholic Church is holding an afternoon vigil, which will be followed by a memorial at Summer Bay and a potluck.
As Unalaskans travel along isolated roads, Lucking reminded drivers to carry an emergency kit with flares, food and other supplies.
“‘Be prepared’ is a message that people can’t hear enough,” he said. “Have a kit. Be ready. Let someone know what you’re doing, especially if it involves remote areas of Unalaska. This terrain and this weather are so quick to change and present issues.”
For those grieving Magalong’s death, the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association said counseling and mental health services are available. Unalaskans can call APIA’s helpline at 359-2743 to speak with a provider over the phone or make a face-to-face appointment.
A GoFundMe page has been set up online to help raise money for Magalong’s family and offset burial and memorial costs.