Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: WWAN via WDOT
Place: HIGHWAY 2, West of Stevens Pass Ski Area
Summary: 1 automobile struck, carried, damaged, and partially buried
Saturday, February 23, 2002 - 12:27 a.m. Pacific
Avalanche at Stevens Pass drags car
down hillside; all inside OK
By Mike Carter and Gina Kim
Seattle Times staff reporters
The avalanche chute dubbed Old
Faithful No. 6 let loose a mountain of
wet snow yesterday that roared
down a hillside below Stevens Pass,
striking a car on Highway 2 and
swept it 150 feet down a steep
embankment, where it came to rest
No one was seriously injured in the
freak accident, which blew out the
windows of the station wagon, but
the four passengers surely got an
unforgettable ride over steep
mountain terrain, according to the
The four passengers remained
inside their car for about 45 minutes
until 10 members of the Stevens
Pass ski patrol were able to rescue
them, said Jeff Adamson, spokesman for the state Department of
The victims, all of Whatcom County, were identified as Michael
Kittleson, 43, and his wife, Denise, 39, who was driving the car,
both of Everson. The passengers were Anthony Seman, 39, of
Bellingham, and Heather Mordhorst, 33, of Ferndale.
A church group happened upon the avalanche within minutes and
some of its members began searching to see if anyone was
injured. Brian Arwine found the car part way down the slide path.
"The windows were all blown out, and the snow was packed in
pretty good," said Arwine, 38, of Monroe. "The car was in really bad
shape. Two of the people came out pretty easy, they weren't
pinned, but the other two were trapped, and it took quite a bit an
effort to get them out."
Arwine and several others who had scrambled down the slope
were able to speak with the four people inside the crumpled station
"They had some visible injuries, scrapes and bruises, but they
seemed to be handling it pretty well," he said.
Three of the passengers hiked out, and one woman was taken out
on a stretcher, Trooper D.C. Putnam said.
They were taken to Valley General Hospital in Monroe, where they
were a little banged up but "walking, talking, alive," said nursing
supervisor Chris Horton. All four were treated for minor injuries and
were to be released last night.
Putnam said the avalanche, which burst across the road at about
3:30 p.m., was between six and 12 feet deep. He estimated it
measured 150 yards across.
"You have a wall of mountain that is facing the prevailing wind, and
there are valleys there that just collect snow," he said. "They're
called Old Faithful by the Department of Transportation because
they can be pretty depended upon to dump snow on the roadway
without a whole lot of warning."
In fact, transportation crews shut down an 8-mile section of the
highway west from the summit from 7 a.m. until noon yesterday to
do avalanche work, said Adamson, state transportation
spokesman. Although they set charges along chutes known for
avalanche activity, they did not work on Old Faithful No. 6.
"It's typically not a player. It only releases when the wind conditions
are just right, and in this particular case, with the amount of rain and
the warm temperatures that we experienced, it released itself,"
"We've got about 50 years of track history, but these mountains are
always a surprise."
The ski patrol, with an avalanche dog, remained in the area after
rescuing the four people to search for others who might have gotten
swept away in the slide, but it came up empty. Snowboarders are
known to go out of Stevens Pass' ski boundaries to cruise down the
avalanche chutes before they reach the road and hitchhike back up
to the summit, a practice that is strongly discouraged, Adamson
Highway 2 was cleared and reopened to traffic last night.
Mike Carter can be reached at 206-464-3706 or
email@example.com. Gina Kim can be reached at
206-464-2761 or firstname.lastname@example.org.