Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2003-12-17
Submitted By: NWAC
Place: Navajo Peak WNW of Blewett Pass
State: WA
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 snowmobiler caught, buried and killed

Navajo Peak Avalanche Incident

Date: 17 December 2003

Location: Navajo Peak to WNW of Blewett Pass (~13 miles SW of Wenatchee, WA)

Who: 1 snowmobiler caught, buried and killed

State: WA

Activity: Snowmobile

Preliminary Report

A group of snowmobilers were out high marking on the SE flanks of Navajo Peak on Wednesday afternoon, December 17 around 1 PM, when one of the group triggered and was caught by a relatively large slab avalanche (dimensions unknown at this time). The slide initiated around the 5400 ft level and swept the male victim into a terrain trap, burying both rider and snowmachine. Apparently other riders had beacons, probes and shovels, but reports indicate that the buried victim did not have a beacon. Initial search and rescue efforts by the other members of the group yielded no contact (probing); it is unknown at this time if the other riders witnessed the event directly. A cell phone call was initiated to advise authorities of the incident while the remaining riders continued searching. Chelan County Sheriff?s Department coordinated the organized search and a helicopter was brought in to ferry in other search and rescue personnel later that afternoon. Although a dog may have alerted near where the victim was eventually found, darkening skies and continuing avalanche danger prevented a more thorough search of that area at that time, and the search was called off for the night. Search and rescue efforts were reinitiated with more personnel on Thursday after helicopter control of the site produced a small slab. Probe lines were reestablished and the victim and machine were located by fine probing late in the afternoon on the 18th, with both victim and snowmobile about 10 feet beneath the snow surface and within 1? feet of each other. The victim?s helmet was reported as being packed with snow and there may have been trauma injuries. The exact cause of death is unknown at this time.

The slide that released was described as about ? meter by 100 m wide, with preliminary reports indicating vertical fall of the slide as between 600 and 1000 feet.

Report compiled by Mark Moore, NWAC?12/19/2003