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Nome Police Identify Driver in Saturday Vehicle Death

Photo of Wagner Wongittilin courtesy of Melanie Bahnke via KTUU

Photo of Wagner Wongittilin courtesy of Melanie Bahnke via KTUU

Nome police have identified a woman they say is responsible for driving under the influence and hitting a Savoonga man with her car before fleeing the scene Saturday morning.

Charges filed Monday say 29-year-old Adrienne Michels was the driver behind the wheel in the fatal collision that killed 54-year-old Wagner “Repa” Wongittilin.

Court documents show Wongittilin was walking with his son and nephew along 5th Avenue and Bering Street around 1 a.m. Saturday. That’s when police say the son and nephew heard a “boom” as Wongtillin was hit by the Ford Explorer SUV driven by Michels.

Police say Wongittilin was seriously injured in the collision. The son and nephew tried CPR just as a cab driver who witnessed the crash reported the incident to police.

Officers and members of the Nome Volunteer Ambulance Department arrived on scene and transported him to Norton Sound Regional Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced dead just after 2 a.m. Saturday. 

Court documents show Michels initially left the scene of the crash but returned “a short time later” with her father. She told officers she “did not see Wongitillin in the roadway” before hitting him.

Michels failed several field sobriety tests and eventually was found to have a blood alcohol content of .227, more than two and a half times the legal limit.

Michels faces a felony manslaughter charge, a misdemeanor for leaving the scene of an accident, and a misdemeanor driving under the influence.

Family members of Wongittilin said they were not sure why he was in Nome, but remembered him as a father, brother and halibut fisherman who volunteered his time with the Savoonga fire department. He was also an EMT.

Wongittilin is survived by his wife and two children. His body is in Anchorage for an autopsy by the State Medical Examiner’s Office, but will be returned to Savoonga for burial.

Editor’s Note: a previous version of this story appeared online that misspelled the suspect’s name as “Adrianna.” The spelling has been corrected.

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