Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2007-02-17
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Palisades Peak Area
State: ID
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 3 snowmobilers caught, 2 partially buried, 1 buried and killed.

***MEDIA REPORTS***

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Sledders unprepared

By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

February 20, 2007

An Ogden, Utah, snowmobiler killed in an avalanche about 15 miles west of Jackson on Saturday did not have safety equipment and his companions had to search for him using tree branches as probes, police reported.

Nicholas Gus Steinmann, 26, died near Idaho?s Palisades Peak on Saturday after companions found him but could not resuscitate him. Two of his three companions, also on snowmobiles, were caught in the slide and had to be dug free by the fourth member of the party.

The three then used broken tree limbs to probe for Steinmann.

The avalanche occurred in the middle of the day. Steinmann did not have an avalanche beacon when he took off into the backcountry in Targhee National Forest. Palisades Peak rises to 9,778 feet in the Snake River Range, also known as the Palisades and the Hole Range. The peak is north of Palisades Reservoir.

At the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center in Teton Village, forecasters had warned that the danger Saturday was considerable, said Chris McCollister, who made the evaluation that morning. Because an Internet server was not operating, the forecast was unavailable by computer, but a telephone backup was available at 733-2664.

A rating of considerable means dangerous unstable slabs exist on steep terrain on certain aspects and that human-triggered avalanches are probable. McCollister said he received one report by e-mail that said the avalanche crown was 8 feet deep and that the victim was buried under 8 or 9 feet of snow, a depth also reported by other sources. He cautioned that the information was spotty and that no forecaster from his office, the closest one to the avalanche, had yet been able to visit the scene.

The center listed the danger as high on Monday in the Greys River area south of Jackson, a popular snowmobiling range.

On Sunday afternoon, a 17-year-old skier from Massachusetts became the 14th avalanche fatality of the season in North America, the 13th in the U.S. He was killed after being caught in a slide while skiing out of bounds with his father and brother in the Hell?s Canyon area near the Snowbasin ski resort in Utah.

According to a report from the Utah Avalanche Center, the three were cautioned by ski patrollers before they left the resort. The sons got ahead of the father, who did not see the avalanche. He came upon the scene to find one son missing, his ski sticking out of debris.

Because the victim was not wearing a beacon, rescuers employed dogs to look for the youth. But they recovered his body only after setting up a probe line and searching for several hours. A preliminary report said he died of trauma.

Of the North American avalanche deaths this season, 10 have been snowmobilers, three have been skiers and one was a climber. One victim was a skier who died Jan. 5 just out of bounds near Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Feb 18, 3:48 PM EST

5 dead after avalanches in Montana, Utah and Idaho

By SUSAN GALLAGHER

Associated Press Writer

HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- Weekend avalanches killed five people in Montana, Utah and Idaho, with one bruised survivor traveling miles by snowmobile and on foot to reach help, authorities said.

In Montana's Big Belt Mountains, the bodies of two snowmobilers caught in an avalanche were found by searchers early Sunday and removed by helicopter later in the day.

That avalanche happened Saturday at the base of Mount Baldy, about 20 miles from Townsend. A survivor traveled the 15 or 20 miles back to the trailhead, initially by snowmobile and then on foot after the machine became stuck, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Cheryl Leidle said.

Upon reaching a pickup truck at the trailhead, he used a cell phone to call for help.

"It would appear the avalanche drove them into a grove of trees downhill from the avalanche itself," Leidle said.

The names of the three men were not immediately released. Leidle described them as friends in their 20s from the Townsend area.

In Utah, two snowmobilers died in separate avalanches on Saturday.

Zachary Holmes, 16, of Farr West, was buried by an avalanche estimated to be 300 feet wide near Tower Mountain in the Uinta Mountains, about 14 miles southeast of Heber City, the Wasatch County sheriff's office said.

Holmes was wearing a helmet and an avalanche beacon, deputy Michael Graves said. Following the beacon's signal, his cousins found him and dug him out of the snow. He later died at the University of Utah Hospital, authorities said.

Earlier Saturday, a snowmobiler on Signal Peak in southwestern Utah triggered the avalanche that killed him, the Sevier County sheriff's office said.

That man, whose name was not released, was climbing the back side of the peak when the avalanche buried him in an estimated 8 feet of snow, authorities said.

In Idaho, the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office in Idaho Falls confirmed the death of a Utah man in an avalanche near Palisade Peak. His name was not immediately available.