Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2003-02-09
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Hatch Peak, above pass to Willow
State: AK
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 2 snowboarders caught, carried, 1 buried and killed

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Man killed in Hatcher Pass slide

HATCH PEAK: Anthony Watters and friend were snowboarding.

By Ben Spiess

Anchorage Daily News

(Published: February 10, 2003)

A Wasilla man was killed in an avalanche Sunday afternoon in Hatcher Pass.

Around 1 p.m., Anthony Watters, 24, and an 18-year-old friend had just completed a snowboarding run off Hatch Peak, above

the pass to Willow, when a slide released, according to Alaska State Troopers and the state park ranger who handled the

rescue.

Almost two hours later, rescuers dug Watters from the snow. He was dead at the scene, Alaska's first avalanche fatality of the

year.

About 24 inches of heavy, wet snow fell in Hatcher Pass in the past six days, ranger Pat Murphy said. More than a foot came

down since Thursday.

Over the weekend, high winds shifted the snow load to lee slopes, including the northeast-facing run near the pass that

Watters and his friend hiked to Sunday.

The two had snowboarded down and stopped near the base of the run when the avalanche let go.

The 18-year-old friend was buried to his chest and managed to dig himself free.

Watters was buried. He had a shovel and an avalanche probe in his backpack, Murphy said. Watters also had an avalanche

beacon, a device that transmits a signal to other beacons to help rescuers find buried victims.

But the 18-year-old had no beacon to receive the signal, Murphy said. He also did not have a shovel or a probe, Murphy said.

The 18-year-old scanned the debris field looking for his friend before hiking out of the area for help. He crossed a gully and

climbed up through the snow on the far side before he ran into a group of four skiers. Two went down with the 18-year-old for

help, Murphy said. Two continued up to the avalanche zone.

Murphy happened to be at Hatcher Pass Lodge with another ranger and three snowmachines. The rangers, the 18-year-old and

several volunteers went up to the slide area.

By the time they arrived, the two skiers had picked up Watters' signal on their beacons. Within minutes they located him with a

probe. His feet were buried 3 feet deep. His head was 5 feet deep, Murphy said.

More than 90 minutes after the avalanche, the rescuers pulled Watters free. They administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation

for 20 minutes. Murphy and the volunteers transported Watters' body back to Hatcher Pass Lodge in a sled.

The 18-year-old was not injured, Murphy said.

"There were a lot of other clues about the danger. There were lots of big slides visible from the road. We also just had a big

snow with heavy wind," Murphy said.

Harlow Robinson of Anchorage was at Hatcher Pass on Sunday for a wedding. He said he saw no skiers or snowboarders

heading high to make runs. All were sticking to the valley floor, away from the avalanche risk.

"There were warning signs everywhere. I've never seen so many fractures and slides in my life. For those guys to be out there

was pretty bad," Robinson said.

Reporter Ben Spiess can be reached at bspiess@adn.com or 907-257-4464.