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Date: 2007-02-17
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Tower Mountain, southeast of Heber City
State: UT
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 snowmobiler caught, buried, and killed





Three snowmobilers die in avalanches

By Russ Rizzo

The Salt Lake Tribune

Article Last Updated: 02/18/2007 02:04:35 AM MST

Two snowmobilers died in separate avalanches Saturday afternoon in Utah, and an Ogden man died in an avalanche in Idaho. Avalanche experts are warning that conditions remain dangerous.

The deaths in Utah are the first from avalanches this season, said Bruce Tremper, director of the Utah Avalanche Center.

The first accident happened about 3:30 p.m. on Signal Peak southeast of Richfield, killing a 44-year-old Richfield man, according to the Sevier County Sheriff's Department. His name has not been released.

The second happened about 4:30 p.m. near Tower Mountain, southeast of Heber City, killing 16-year-old Zachary Holmes, according to the Wasatch County Sheriff's Office.

In the Idaho accident, Nicholas G. Steinmann, 26, of Ogden, was killed while riding with three others near Palisades Peak in Bonneville County, Idaho, according to the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office. The avalanche buried Steinmann in 8 feet of snow and efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, according to Deputy Al Thomas. The other three riders were not seriously injured.

In the Signal Peak accident, the Richfield man attempted to climb the back side of the peak and triggered an avalanche estimated to be 150 feet by 80 feet, according to the sheriff's department. Rescuers dug the man out of 8 feet of snow, and he was transported by a highway patrol helicopter to Sevier Valley Hospital in Richfield. The sheriff's department did not release any other details Saturday.

In the other Utah accident, Holmes was with a group of other snowmobilers near Strawberry Reservoir in the Wasatch Cache National Forest about 4:30 p.m. when the slide started, said Wasatch County sheriff's Deputy Mike Graves.

Holmes, of Farr West, was pronounced dead at University Hospital in Salt Lake City. No one else was caught in the avalanche, Graves said.

Friends who were with Holmes dug the teen out of the snow and performed CPR on the him while two others went to an area with cellular telephone coverage to call 911, the deputy said.

Members of the Wasatch County Search and Rescue team had a difficult time finding the teen, because people who reported the avalanche were unfamiliar with the area, Graves said. A medical helicopter pilot spotted Holmes from the air, allowing rescue members to find him and load him onto the helicopter, he said.

"It's tricky conditions," Graves said. "It's considerable danger, which means human-triggered avalanches are probable, which is pretty darn dangerous."

Saturday marked the state's eighth day in a row of human-triggered avalanches in Utah, according to Brett Kobernik, a forecaster with the Utah Avalanche Center.

"The savviest people are playing it conservative, which means sticking to low-angled slopes and out from underneath run-out zones or areas that have steep slopes above them," Kobernik wrote in his daily backcountry report Saturday. "Even some of the most experienced people have had close calls this week."