Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2007-03-10
Submitted By: SNFAC
Place: Apollo Creek in the Baker Creek Drainage
State: ID
Country: USA
Summary: 1 snowmobiler caught, buried and injured

On Saturday, March 10, at 3pm a 34 year old male snowmobiler triggered and was buried by an avalanche at the head of Apollo Creek in the Baker Creek Drainage approximately 15 miles west-northwest of Ketchum, ID. This information is based on information from one of the victim?s partners that was at the scene.

Reportedly the group of riders from Richfield, ID, had triggered a slide earlier in the day, but details of this avalanche are unknown. The group had not checked the avalanche advisory. The victim was highmarking a steep, northeasterly facing slope at approximated 9500 feet. The rider triggered the slope on his descent and attempted to outrun the slide. In the process he apparently collided with a tree and was separated from his sled. The other members of the group were in the runout and started their sleds to get out of the way. When the avalanche stopped the victim was buried, but was found within a few minutes by the female partner with whom I spoke. She got close to the victim with her beacon and was able to hear him screaming. His head was buried about two feet deep while the rest of his body was deeper. The rescuer was using a BCA Tracker beacon and had done some practicing in her backyard.

The victim was complaining of severe back pain and another member of the group, who is reported to be an EMT, went out for help. He returned to the scene with a radio and oxygen while search and rescue mobilized. Life Flight along with a Sun Valley Heli Ski guide reached the victim between 6 and 6:30 pm and he was airlifted to Boise.

The avalanche occurred right next to a slide that had been triggered by snowmobilers a week earlier. The avalanche fractured on faceted snow that formed during a month-long dry spell January. The weak layer was buried by an estimated 4-5? SWE during February and at the time of the accident was buried about 2-3 feet deep. Only a few inches of recent snow had fallen, and the last significant loading was approximately eight days prior to the accident. Based on an investigation of the adjacent avalanche triggered a week earlier and from observations of the heli ski guide on the scene, recent wind loading was not a significant factor. On the day of the accident, the avalanche danger on steep, northerly facing slopes was estimated to be MODERATE by the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center.

On the same day, another avalanche was triggered by a snowmobiler in similar terrain approximately 10 miles to the northwest. The rider was partially buried and able to extricate himself.