Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2003-02-22
Submitted By: mark Moore
Place: Echo Bowl near Priest Lake
State: ID
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 5 snowmobilers caught, 1 buried and killed

From the Seattle Times

Skier, Spokane snowmobiler killed in avalanches

The Associated Press

PRIEST LAKE, Idaho ? A snowmobiler from Spokane, Wash., and a backcountry skier were killed in separate avalanches north of Sandpoint.

Tim Parnow, of Sandpoint, was buried while backcountry skiing around 11:30 a.m. Saturday with friends near Keokee Lake, northwest of Schweitzer Mountain Resort. Ninety minutes later and 10 miles to the north, Patrick Kopczynski, of Spokane, was struck by an avalanche while riding a snowmobile in Echo Bowl near Priest Lake.

Parnow and five friends had skied into the Caribou Hut on Friday. A popular backcountry ski destination, the hut is between Mount Casey and Keokee Lake.

On Saturday, the group was skiing somewhere in the area of Keokee Lake when Parnow was caught by an avalanche, friend Chris Bier said. Bier was not on the trip, but is friends with members of the group.

"These are extremely experienced skiers," Bier said. "They had done all the testing. It was just unfortunate."

The group was well equipped for a backcountry emergency with avalanche beacons and shovels. The group was also able to use cell phones to call for help.

"Big Sky Paramedics was called directly by someone on a cell phone," said Sgt. Bob Howard, supervisor of the Bonner County Sheriff's Department Emergency Services Unit.

A helicopter arrived and took Parnow to the Bonner General Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

In the Echo Bowl avalanche, Kopczynski was one of hundreds of snowmobilers in the bowl on Saturday, Howard said.

Several drivers were doing what is called "high marking," racing up the steep banks of the snow wall to see who can go the highest before turning to descend, Howard said.

Kopczynski and four other snowmobilers were caught when snowmobiles above them apparently triggered an avalanche. When Kopczynski was uncovered he was already dead. Rescuers managed to pull the rest of the snowmobilers safely out of the snow.