TRAVERSE CITY — Roger Brown hopes his 9-year-old grandson, Shjon, is remembered as a beautiful, caring child who adored living in Alaska.
“He loved the outdoors,” said Brown, 57, of Traverse City. “He loved Fairbanks and the Alaska mentality – loved being in such a big, beautiful area.”
Shjon — pronounced Shawn — died in the Alaskan wilderness Saturday night as he snowmobiled with his father, Roger A. Brown, 35, of Fairbanks. Shjon was riding his snowmobile when it plunged into an ice crevasse estimated at 200 feet deep.
Roger Brown said his son, Roger A. Brown, is a Traverse City Central High School graduate who works in Alaska as an ice road truck driver. The elder Brown said Shjon and his father have several extended family members who live in northern Michigan.
Roger Brown boarded a flight to Alaska Monday afternoon so he could be with his son and other family members.
“We are going to stay up there for as long as it takes and do whatever it takes to help get my son through this,” Roger Brown said. "It's a very emotional time."
Alaska Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Megan Peters said Roger A. Brown and his son were attending the Arctic Man Classic & Sno-Go event, a festival-type affair that features snowmobile races, skiing and other outdoor activities in a remote, wilderness area. The father and son were snowmobiling on separate machines Saturday in the HooDoo Mountains area when the father stopped for just a moment.
"The boy was out riding snow machines with his dad, dad was supervising the boy, and the boy went behind the hill and just didn’t come out from the other side," Peters said.
"People grow up snow-machining in Alaska," Peters said. "It's a tragedy. Anyone could have fallen down the hole ... anyone could have driven over it."
Alaska State Troopers said an extensive search and rescue led to the retrieval of Shjon's body on Monday at 12:40 a.m. The body was beneath the snowmobile, buried in six to eight feet of snow.
The type of hole the child fell in is called a moulin, formed when spring water flows onto a glacier.