Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2004-03-05
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: The Sinks, near the top of Logan Canyon
State: UT
Country: USA
Summary: 39 Scouts & leaders buried in snow caves by cornice fall

Snow caves protect sleeping Boy Scouts in Utah avalanche

By The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY ? A huge wall of snow collapsed and buried the entrances to a series of manmade caves where more than three dozen Boy Scouts and their leaders were sleeping during a winter survival camping trip, but everyone was rescued unharmed.

The Scouts had carved the caves deep into the snow on a ridge in northern Utah's Logan Canyon, at an elevation of 7,400 feet.

"You're pretty cozy inside of them," said Randy Maurer, the father of one of the Scouts. "You're completely oblivious to what's going on outside."

After the 39 Scouts and Scout leaders went to sleep Friday night, wind gusting to 64 mph piled snow into a huge cornice hanging over the slope where the Scouts dug their caves.

The 500-foot cornice collapsed just before 4 a.m. Saturday, burying the entrances to the caves under 6 to 8 feet of snow.

Insulated by the thick snow around them, the Scouts were unaware of the problem.

"It was a little bit more than what we expected to wake up to," Maurer said.

The avalanche was heard by a group of Scout leaders who were sleeping in a nearby trailer, and they used an emergency roadside telephone to call 911.

"That probably made quite a bit of noise, I'm imagining," Cache County sheriff's Lt. Von Williamson said of the avalanche. "But if they would have all been in the caves, I shudder to think how long it would be before we would have heard about this."

Williamson said the Scout leaders who called for help knew approximately where the caves were, and emergency crews used shovels and snow probes to locate the Scouts.

Some of the boys, ages 12 to 16, were awakened when they were jabbed by the avalanche probes the rescuers were pushing into the snow.

Maurer told The Salt Lake Tribune he was awakened by the sounds of the rescue effort.

"That was a big shock," said his son, Brock. "It was a wake-up call for sure."

By 7:05 a.m., everyone had been pulled from the caves uninjured.

"Some were pretty scared, some were only somewhat upset," Williamson said. "It seemed to depend upon the age of the kids. The older kids took it a little more in stride."