Aquinnah woman found dead in the snow

— File photo by Tim Johnson

The death of Amanda Hutchinson, a 50-year-old mother of three and a well known up-Island resident, found lifeless in the snow following the Island’s first significant winter storm Saturday, spread a sense of tragedy across the sparsely populated, westernmost Vineyard town of Aquinnah.

State Police Sergeant Tom Medeiros said Ms. Hutchinson was appropriately dressed for the weather conditions and no foul play is suspected.

Police and medical officials said that Ms. Hutchinson likely died of exposure, after walking from her home at 4 Evergreen Way sometime Saturday night to check on a nearby house for which she was the caretaker, on Old South Road.

No official cause of death will be named until the state medical examiner’s office in Boston completes an autopsy.

The storm Saturday dropped about eight inches of snow across the Island. Temperatures were below freezing overnight.

Police believe that Ms. Hutchinson was sewing in her house’s detached garage apartment and left at some point in the evening to check on the South Road house. Her husband, Stephen Hutchinson, assumed that his wife had spent the night in the garage apartment, an occasional occurrence.

Sunday morning, when he realized his wife was not in the apartment, Mr. Hutchinson went looking for her at the South Road house. He began following his wife’s footprints in the snow and located her not far from their house, he told The Times this week.

Aquinnah Police Sergeant Paul Manning said police and Tri-town ambulance personnel responded to a call from Mr. Hutchinson just before 8:30 am, Sunday. Sergeant Manning said Ms. Hutchinson was found a couple of hundred yards from her house.

Ms. Hutchinson was unconscious and there was no pulse. Sergeant Manning said emergency medical responders began CPR and continued their efforts to resuscitate her on the trip by ambulance to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. “The attending physician pronounced her dead at 10:12 am,” he said.

“It’s a small town, and this will certainly resonate through the town,” Mr. Manning said in a telephone conversation Sunday. “It’s very, very unfortunate.”

Community saddened

Ms. Hutchinson, a long-time Aquinnah resident, was well known. She worked as an administrative assistant to the board of health and was an assistant to the planning board.

“Amanda was an important part of our team and will be sorely missed,” Peter Temple, planning board member, said in an email to The Times.

Oak Bluffs board of health agent Shirley Fauteaux, speaking for the All-Island Board of Health, said, “Amanda was an integral part of the Island’s family of health agents, and she will be sorely missed. The board extends its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Amanda Hutchinson.”

Her daughter Alayna, a Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School junior, was set to play in a basketball game Sunday afternoon. In an email to school officials sent 10 am, Sunday, Martha’s Vineyard superintendent of schools James Weiss said the game against Bishop Feehan had been postponed and the team would meet with counselors.

In a conversation Wednesday, Mr. Hutchinson said the Aquinnah police Department and the high school had shown great sensitivity and provided much support. He said his family is still reeling from the shock of their sudden loss.

He said he was thankful for the outpouring of support. “People I’ve never even met have reached out to us,” Mr. Hutchinson said. “My kitchen has four feet of food in it.”

Mr. Hutchinson, a carpenter, said the affection of the community directed towards his family and wife has been overwhelming. “It is confirmation of why I live here,” he said.

A service is planned for the spring.