Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2002-03-16
Submitted By: Ted Steiner; GCAC
Place: South Canyon Creek area, North Fork of the Flathead
State: MT
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 2 snowmobilers caught and buried, 1 killed wearing an avalanche transciever


This report was released at 0900 on 3/19/02.

Crown Face Profie & Site Observation- South Canyon Incident,

Whitefish Range, MT. (GCAC Report)

19 Mar 2002 -

Date of Observation: 3-18-02

Time of Observation: 1600

Observer: Ted Steiner, GCAC Inc.

Activity: Avalanche Observation/ Fracture line Profile.

Location: South Fork of Canyon Creek.

Elevation: 5,200 ft. (1557 m)

Aspect: South

Slope: 35 degrees (Starting Zone).

Weather at time of observation:

Overcast, Snowing- greater than 3 cm/ hr. (S3), Nil Wind... No

temperatures Recorded.

Avalanche Description: SS-AM-2-O

Type: Soft Slab

Size: 2

Trigger: Artificial- Snowmobiler

Avalanche Dimensions (Approximates.):

Crown Width: 334 ft. (100 m)

Maximum Crown Height: 3.3 ft. (90 cm)

Minimum Crown Height: 2 ft. (60 cm)

Vertical Run: 520 ft. (156 m)

Linear Run: 1240 ft. (371 m)

Snowpack and Summary:

Total Height of the snowpack (HS) was 327 cm. There was 37 cm.

of new snow since Saturday on the avalanche?s starting zone bed

surface. As mentioned, total crown depth was 90 cm.

In conducting a crown profile, the slab that slid exhibited a

one-finger (1F) hardness atop the layer it failed on. The failing

layer(s) consist(ed) of a thin crust (1 mm) underlain by 8 cm. of

1.0-1.5 mm of poorly bonded facets (fist hardness). The resulting

avalanche bed surface under lays the facets and is a

well-developed melt-freeze layer measuring 17 cm. in thickness

and pencil plus (P+) hardness.

Stability tests on the slab layer were limited to four (4)

Compression Tests due to time and conditions. Compression Test

results on the avalanche?s resulting bed surface were indicating

moderate failures (CTM X 2) and clean shears (Q1 shears).

This report was released at 0900 on 3/19/02. Information for this

report was gathered, recorded, and compiled by Ted Steiner,

Executive Director, GCAC Inc. If you have questions or comments

regarding this report, please direct them to:


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03/18/2002 Monday

Snowmobiler killed in avalanche


By Nancy Kimball

The Daily Inter Lake

The name of the snowmobiler who died in Saturday's avalanche in the South

Canyon Creek area was released Sunday.

Byron Cameron, 60, of Kalispell, was killed when he and another

snowmobiler were caught in a slide in a bowl off the South Canyon Creek

backcountry area up the North Fork of the Flathead River valley.

Flathead County Deputy Coroner Brock Wilson said Cameron was declared

dead through medical control about 6:30 p.m., following extensive efforts at

CPR by an ALERT flight paramedic. Wilson said he died of asphyxia due to

burial in the hard-packed snow avalanche.

A companion, Rory Buckallew, 19, also was buried but survived. Columbia

Falls ambulance took him to Kalispell Regional Medical Center for

examination after the incident.

Cameron and Buckallew had been snowmobiling Saturday with two others ?

Mike Stickney of Kalispell and Buckallew's 17-year-old brother Trey, Wilson

said .

Flathead County Undersheriff Chuck Curry, who rode to the site with deputy

sheriff Jeff Middleton on snowmobiles, said the four had gone up a hill from a

river bottom to a road, where they had left some gasoline earlier in the day.

Rory Buckallew's snowmobile did not make it up the hill on the first attempt,

Curry said, so Stickney and Trey Buckallew stayed on the road while

Cameron and Rory Buckallew headed for the lower hill to rendezvous with

them at a junction farther along the road.

Buckallew made one more attempt to crest the hill before leaving but his

machine bogged down in the snow. Cameron rode back up to the spot, and

he and Buckallew were working together to free up the machine when the

avalanche was triggered, pulling both of them into the snowstream.

Wilson said a trio of snowmobilers, Art, Sherry and Shawn Foster, from

Helena, were at the bottom of the hill and saw the two get buried in the slide.

Curry said they immediately headed for the spot where the men were, called

911 from a cell phone and began their rescue.

Stickney and Trey Buckallew quickly joined them, following the Helena

snowmobilers' lead in locating their friends.

All snowmobilers at the scene were well-equipped for such a disaster, he

said, carrying probes, shovels and other gear. They quickly uncovered

Cameron, buried under 5 or 6 feet of snow and not breathing, Curry said.

Buckallew was found next to him, but he had been able to continue breathing.

Those on the scene immediately began CPR on Cameron, Curry said.

ALERT helicopter had been called to the scene, but could not land on the

steep terrain, so off-loaded its paramedic to take over resuscitation efforts.

"He was able to continue life-saving efforts that would have happened if the

entire crew had been there," Curry said. "After a fairly long resuscitation

attempt, he made contact with the ER via cell phone," and the doctor on duty

advised him to cease efforts.

Wilson said efforts began about 5:30 p.m. and continued until about 6:30


"This is one of the cases where they did everything they could have and did it

quickly," Curry said. Everything was done right. Unfortunately, it doesn't work

all the time."

Curry added that the area was a small, relatively safe-looking place to


"This is not an area that I would have been really worried about sliding," he

said. "Traditionally, a great big, open bowl" is where snowmobilers run the

greatest risk of being caught in an avalanche.

Cameron is survived by his wife, Barbara, two sons, Jeffrey and John, and a

step-daughter Darcy Metzger, all of Kalispell and Columbia Falls. Services

are pending at this time.

One man killed in avalanche

03/17/2002 Sunday

A man was killed in an avalanche in the Trumble Canyon area north of

Columbia Falls on Saturday afternoon.

Very little information was available by Saturday evening, but the Flathead

County Sheriff's Office said the man was snowmobiling with others when the

slide occurred shortly before 5 p.m. Apparently, he and a younger

snowmobiler were caught when the snow broke loose.

The man's identity was not released. The sheriff's office was only able to say

he was older than what one person reported as the "young kid" who survived

the avalanche.

Rescuers performed CPR on at least one of them, according to reports.

Others in the snowmobiling party were said to have suffered frostbite.

ALERT helicopter, North Valley Search and Rescue, Columbia Falls

ambulance and rescue units, and county deputies helped with the rescue.

They staged operations from the parking area for the popular Canyon Creek

snowmobile trail.

The call for help came into the sheriff's 911 center from a cell phone at 4:48



A 60-year-old snowmobiler died in an avalanche that occurred near Columbia

Falls on Saturday. The victim rode up onto a small slope to help his partner

free his stuck snowmobile. As they were wrestling the sled free, the slope

avalanched, burying both men. Other snowmachiners, who witnessed the slide,

responded immediately and quickly located the men who were buried

side-by-side, 5-6 feet deep. One man was alive; the other had died by the

time rescuers were able to dig through the debris. The first lesson to be

learned is one that has been played out many times. Don?t help your buddy

get their sled un-stuck when they are on a slope. I know it is hard to get

them buggers out. I had to do it yesterday when I failed to turn out of a

high mark in time. Knowing the work I was in for, my partner asked if he

should come up to help, to which I emphatically replied, ?What, are you

trying to kill me?? The second lesson is; don?t under-estimate a small

slope. More people die in small avalanches then in big ones. Any steep slope

can avalanche, regardless of size, and the debris from a small avalanche can

bury you just as deep as the debris from a larger one.