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Tragedy on the ski trail 3/28/11

Anne Stanton - March 28th, 2011
Tragedy on A Ski Trail: Friends reflect on the death of Carole Hague
By Anne Stanton
A few days before St. Patrick’s Day, Carole Hague, a vivacious, pretty
brunette from Boyne City, was showing off pictures of a wooded
cross-country ski trail where she had just skied.
Her co-worker, Susan Cohen, admired the cell phone pictures and asked
Hague about who went with her.
“She said, ‘I went by myself.’ I told her, ‘Carole you shouldn’t do that.
What if something happens? You shouldn’t go by yourself.’ But knowing her,
she’s so independent, lived by herself, never had children, she did what
she wanted.”
On Tuesday evening, after their workday at Chico’s, a women’s clothing
store in Petoskey, the two women walked to their cars and said good-bye.
Cohen saw some cross country skis in the back of Hague’s new light green
Subaru Forrester, but Hague didn’t mention she was heading to the Upper
Peninsula the next day. “She probably got up in the morning, thought to
herself, ‘It’s a beautiful day,” and headed up there. It wasn’t unusual
for her to do.”
Hague, 61, who was in training for a cross-country ski race, arrived in
St. Ignace sometime on Wednesday to ski. The day was unseasonably
warm—about 43 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, and the
snow was likely slushy.
About a mile down the trail, Hague fell as she was skiing down a hill and
badly injured her leg. Unable to call or crawl back to safety, and in
shock from the injury, Hague died on the trail. A search team found her
early Sunday morning. It appeared that she had tried to make a splint for
her leg and set off the ‘alert’ button on her car keys. Wednesday’s
night’s temperature dipped to 31 degrees, according to a National Weather
Service’s cooperative observer reading in St. Ignace.

Hague’s independent streak goes a long way in explaining why she wasn’t
found until up to four days after her probable death. The county’s medical
examiner did not return a phone call to Express, so the date she died is
unknown, but friends said the medical examiner indicated she wasn’t alive
when night fell.
Cohen said that it took awhile for people to realize she was gone. Her
first miss was attending a downhill ski league on Wednesday night. On
Friday, she didn’t show up at work at Chico’s, where she worked as a
part-time manager.
“When she didn’t show up, I called her cell phone and it went right to
voice mail,” Cohen said. “Her voice mail at her home number was full,
probably with friends wondering why she wasn’t at ski league. We called
her all day, trying to find her… We got really concerned. It was so unlike
Hague’s boyfriend, Sean Ryan, checked her house on Saturday and contacted
the Boyne City Police Department after finding it empty. Boyne police
officials called the Michigan State Police Post of St. Ignace, a favorite
area to ski.
Police were able to begin the search on Saturday afternoon, thanks to a
call made to her cell phone (which had been left in her car) on Thursday,
March 17. The cell phone carrier was able to give officers the cell
phone’s general location. Officers found Hague’s Subaru parked at a trail
located off Brevort Lake Road in Moran Township about 15 miles west of St.
Ignace, said Detective Sergeant Richard Rule, who helped organize the
multi-agency search.
The search of miles and miles of trails was made even more difficult
because they were muddy and lacked enough snow for snowmobiles. State
Police decided to go on foot with a search dog, but ran out of time as
night descended. They resumed the search at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning
with a group of about 15 to 20 family and friends, said Glen Young, a good
friend of Sean Ryan.
The volunteers, who broke into small groups, were told to only search the
part of the trail that had been searched the night before, so as not to
confuse the dog with added human scents. The trail was icy and incredibly
hilly, making it difficult to walk, with a lot of downed trees from recent
logging. At about 11 a.m., the search groups were asked to reconvene at
the trailhead, Young said.
The police continued their search with a dog, and troopers found Hague
about 11:30 a.m., less than a mile from the trailhead as the crow flies,
Rule said.

Hague, 61, left behind many friends, who described her as a “super happy”
person with a beautiful smile, and always on the go.
“You never saw her without a smile on her face,” Young said.
“Carole was always herself and always comfortable with that,” said Bob
Berschback, a Walloon Lake summer resident. “She was a wonderful person in
that regard, never any airs, any phoniness, or whatever. Very caring and
concerned for other people, too,”
Peg Muzzall of Petoskey described her as petite, super fit, upbeat and
“She died doing something fun, which isn’t surprising,” Muzzall said. “She
was always doing something fun.”
“I don’t think she was once in a bad mood,” Cohen said. “She was a really
cool person, and I’m better for knowing her. We all feel that way. It’s
never going to be the same without her.”
Hague previously worked as an elementary school teacher in Boyne City. She
created custom soaps in her kitchen and sold them at the farmer’s market.
She also worked one day a week, caring for latchkey school kids.

Cohen believes that young people are more inclined to take their cell
phone everywhere they go—a practice that older generations might want to
consider. Of note, cell phone service was available on the trail.
“We have the technology, these mini phones,” Muzzall added. “You just
never know. That really bums me out. She would have been alive today—how
terribly tragic. This is a wake-up call for a lot of people.”
Boyne City Assistant Police Jeff Gettel said the lesson to be learned is
to keep your cell phone on your person, ski with a friend, if possible,
and to always let a friend or family member know where you are and when to
expect your return.
“At least someone will know where to look,” he said.
 Young said that anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors knows that
slipping up is an easy thing to do.
“How many of us who enjoy the outdoors has not done the same thing one
hundred times. You just don’t expect it to end this way.”

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