Minnesota woman dies after being hit by falling ice while hiking in Alaska

Updated: 5:16 p.m. | Posted: 3:30 p.m.

Falling ice crushed a woman and falling rock struck and killed a 5-year-old boy in separate Independence Day hiking accidents in Alaska.

Brittany Boegel, 32, of Mound, Minnesota, died on a hike in an ice field near Byron Glacier about 45 miles south of Anchorage.

Byron Glacier is within Chugach National Forest. The glacier is part of Portage Valley, a 14-mile isthmus that connects the Kenai Peninsula to mainland Alaska. The valley attracts thousands of visitors each year and offers spectacular views of snowcapped mountains and Turnagain Arm, the finger of ocean at the top of Cook Inlet.

Chugach National Forest spokesperson Alicia King said she did not know how Boegel reached the ice field but confirmed that Byron Glacier is accessible by a short walking trail. There is no prohibition on walking on the glacier but the Forest Service urges hikers to consider their safety.

Jonathon Taylor with the Alaska Department of Public Safety said hikers are advised to stay out of snow caves, especially with record temperatures in southeastern Alaska this week.

"Just because it might look like it's stable, like it's secure, there can be different layers of it with different levels of stability underneath that surface," Taylor said.

Boegel, a man and a 6-year-old boy approached a hollowed-out, compressed snow mass that resembled a snow cave, Alaska State Troopers said.

They walked under the mass of ice and snow and the ceiling fell. The man and boy suffered what troopers said were minor injuries.

The ice buried Boegel. Family members and others pulled her out and attempted CPR. Emergency responders carried in medical supplies including an automated external defibrillator. She died at the scene.

Boegel worked as a teacher at Venture Academy for the last four years. Mike Warner, a dean at the school, said Boegel traveled widely.

"She was a passionate traveler," Warner said. "She traveled pretty much every school break, whether it was Christmas break, spring break or summer break, she was always on the move. She traveled around South America, she traveled around Europe — always traveling. She was an adventurer, she wouldn't go to Disney World, she'd go on an adventure to get to know cultures and communities."

Warner described Boegel as a dedicated teacher. He said the school — which is on summer break — will be calling families to inform them and will provide grief counselors as needed.

A 5-year-old Valdez, Alaska, boy died Wednesday morning when he was struck by a falling rock near Worthington Glacier about 28 miles northeast of Valdez.

The glacier is within Thompson Pass, a 2,800-foot mountain pass. The trans-Alaska pipeline and the Richardson Highway are built through the pass.

The glacier is a short walk from a state recreation site off the highway. Hikers can walk along both sides of the ice.

The boy was with family and friends, Alaska State Troopers said. A boulder the size of a bowling ball rolled off a ledge and struck the boy in the head.

Allie Ferko, spokesperson for the Valdez Police and Fire Department, said troopers asked for assistance and the departments sent ambulances and its backcountry search and rescue responders in response to a report of the boy unconscious but breathing.

A private helicopter flew the boy to Valdez Providence Hospital, where he died.

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