Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 1999-05-14
Submitted By: Doug Fessler, AMSC
Place: Blue Lake area near Sitka
State: AK
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 2 hikers caught, 1 killed

On Friday, May 14, 1999 , around 12:15 pm, in the Blue Lake area, in

Sitka (southeast Alaska), two hikers were caught and one killed in a

natural, wet loose snow avalanche. The deceased was carried approximately

900 feet down a narrow chute and died as a result of trauma. Both victims

were partly buried, but the survivor was only slightly injured with cuts and

bruises. Rescuers responding to the scene narrowly missed being hit by

several other small slides before moving the victim to a safer location. The

hearse responding to the scene parked in the runout of the path. Ten minutes

after the victim was lowered via a safe ridge route to the road below, a

slide ran to within 20 feet of the parked hearse, re-covering the accident

site rescuers had only recently vacated. Warm temperatures, clear skies,

and solar warming caused the instability. Poor route selection, bad timing,

and underestimating the hazard were major contributory factors in the

accident. Both of the hikers were in their early 20s.

Doug Fesler, Alaska Mountain Safety Center