University Of Alaska Anchorage

November 23, 2011 by staff 

University Of Alaska Anchorage, A college track star from Kenya who vanished for more than two days in a fierce Alaskan blizzard had his feet amputated after suffering a near-fatal case of frostbite, University of Alaska Anchorage officials said.

Marko Cheseto, 28, a decorated track and cross country runner and one of several Kenyans on UAA’s team, was distraught over a “personal crisis” when he fled into a massive snowstorm on Nov. 6 clad in only jeans, sneakers and a light jacket, authorities told the Anchorage Daily News.

Workers at a hotel near campus found the six-time All American stumbling through a foot of snow and freezing temperatures at around 3 a.m. on Nov. 9, officials said.

He had severe frostbite on his feet and hands, and emergency crews couldn’t remove his shoes because they were frozen to his skin, a hotel worker told the newspaper.

After spending more than a week in a local hospital recovering from hypothermia, Cheseto had both feet amputated last Thursday, the school said Monday.

His hands are expected to heal, though he’ll be in the hospital for some time, the school said.

In a statement on the school’s website, Cheseto thanked the volunteers who searched for him and apologized for the panic he caused.

“While I am still recovering – both physically and emotionally – I will do my very best to give back to the community that has helped me so much and to my home country, Kenya,” he said.

Authorities said Cheseto was outside during the entire ordeal and may have been unconscious at times.

“He was running on a trail at one point, I know that,” UAA athletic director Steve Cobb told the Anchorage Daily News.

Authorities didn’t say why the west Kenya native suddenly took off, though he may have been struggling to get over a teammate’s suicide earlier this year.

Cheseto won NCAA Division II regional cross country championships in 2009 and 2010, but skipped the spring track season after his friend and fellow Kenyan William Ritekwiang killed himself in February, the Anchorage newspaper said.

School officials said they expected the bright young nursing major to return to school after his recovery.

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