Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2003-02-01
Submitted By: GNFAC
Place: Copper Creek Bowl northeast of Lincoln, MT
State: MT
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 2 snowmobilers caught and buried, 1 rescued with transciever, 1 killed


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Avalanche kills one man near Lincoln

By Eve Byron, IR Staff Writer - 02/02/03

A snowmobiler from Fairfield, 21, was killed Saturday after an avalanche swept down upon him in the Copper Creek Bowl northeast of Lincoln.

His name wasn't released pending notification of relatives.

Another man, Wendell Baer, 27, of Stevensville, was dug out from underneath about 4-5 feet of snow and was not injured, according to Lewis and Clark County Undersheriff Leo Dutton.

Dutton said the men were snowmobiling with friends about 16 miles from the paved Copper Creek Road when the avalanche occurred shortly before noon.

The Copper Creek Bowl area is home to high rolling hills, with views of the Scapegoat Wilderness, and is a popular destination for both back-country skiers and snowmobilers.

Other snowmobilers who had been recreating nearby came over to help after they witnessed the slide.

Dutton said Baer was wearing a transceiver, which is a device that emits beeps to help locate people. His friends traced the beep, then saw Baer's helmet and a hand sticking out of the snow.

Snow at the scene continued to be unstable throughout the rescue effort, and Dutton urged people to stay out of the nearby mountains.

"We're asking that no one go into this area," Dutton said.

So far this year, about a dozen people have survived avalanches in Montana in which they were partly or completely buried. At least one other snowmobiler has died in Montana ? Andrew Greicar of North Dakota, who was buried in a slide Jan. 22 near Cooke City. At least eight other people have died in avalanches this year in the United States, as well as nine people in Canada.

Avalanche danger was rated "high" for this weekend in the mountains in west central Montana. Avalanche alerts also were posted for the mountains in southeastern Montana, and the danger was listed as moderate near Glacier Park.

The National Resource Conservation Service's snow measuring site near Copper Creek showed that the area received 18 inches of new snow within the past two days. Teton Pass ski area near Choteau reported a foot of new snow overnight, with other areas in western Montana seeing as much as 2 feet at higher elevations.

The snow fell upon an unstable layer of hoarfrost crystals, and stability tests in the Bitterroot Range last week were showing conditions ripe for avalanches.

Coincidentally, the call for Lewis and Clark County's search and rescue team to respond to the avalanche came as rescuers were collecting their gear from Spring Meadow Lake, where they had pulled a 9-year-old drowning victim from the icy waters Friday night.