A five-year-old boy carried an 18-month-old toddler a half a mile in sub-zero temperatures through the Alaskan wilderness after being abandoned in a remote cottage, The Anchorage Daily News reports. The temperature outside was 31 degrees below zero.
This week, Alaska state troopers received a call from a concerned neighbor, asking authorities to do a welfare check on two young boys in Venetie, a remote village of 175 people about 155 miles north of Fairbanks. So remote is the village that officials had to charter a plane to even get there.
What they found horrified them: two young boys, one five-years-old and the other 18-months-old, both suffering from their exposure to the cold. The story officials pieced together was equally horrifying. It seems the two lads had been left alone in a house by an adult. It’s not clear how long they were left alone in the house; however, the boys left when the power went out and it became too cold for them to stay there.
Wearing only socks and light clothing, the older boy carried the younger one about half a mile through the snow in extremely dangerous temperatures to get to a neighbor’s house. The neighbor called the police.
Both children received “cold-related injuries,” although what that means, specifically, is unclear.
“Unfortunately, I’m unable to provide anything beyond what’s contained in the dispatch right now,” said state troopers spokesman Ken Marsh, referring to a press release issued by the Alaska Department of Public Safety.
Police arrested 37-year-old Julie Peter, the adult accused of leaving the children alone in the home. She faces charges of endangering the welfare of a minor. The nature of Peter’s relationship to the children is unclear, as of this writing.
Like many similar villages across Alaska, particularly in the interior, Venetie is at once impossibly remote and subject to extreme cold. Temperatures can routinely reach 40 degrees below zero or colder.
In that kind of cold, according to Health Partners, frostbite can begin in as little as 30 minutes once the temperature drops below zero. When it gets down to 15 below, it can take hold in as little as 15 minutes. The fingers, toes, ears, cheeks, and chin are at the most risk of frostbite, and in severe cases, the exposed parts of the body can effectively “die” and have to be amputated.
Similarly, according to Live Science, when the temperature gets to -30 Fahrenheit, a person who isn’t dressed properly for the cold is at risk of hypothermia, which can be fatal, in as little as ten minutes.