Two killed in avalanche while riding snowmobiles

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Two snowmobile drivers were killed Friday when they triggered an avalanche and were buried in the snow for nearly an hour, Alaska State Troopers said.

Anchorage residents Christoph Vonalvensleben, 25, and Jeremy Stark, 27, were caught in a snow slide Friday while riding snowmobiles in the backcountry about 70 miles outside Anchorage. The two were buried in the snow for about 45 minutes before they were located, Alaska State Troopers said.

Troopers initially reported three people had died but one of them - Andrew Baugh, 38, of Girdwood - was recovered. He was evaluated by emergency medics and released, troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen said.

Three other snowmobilers in the party were accounted for. All were unharmed, Ipsen said.

The avalanche was triggered when a member of the group rode down off the edge of a ridge, troopers said.

One snowmobiler was pulled from the slide, and snow was removed from the face of the other, but CPR efforts weren't successful, Ipsen said.

The remote location of the slide on the back side of a mountain hampered communication with troopers at the scene. Officials did not immediately have other information about the slide, including the depth of the snow.

The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center reported 11 inches of new snow in a two-day period. That left the snowpack depth at 94 inches at a Turnagain Pass weather station, located at 1,800 feet.

The avalanche information center had warned that natural avalanches were possible and huge snow slides triggered by humans were probable.

Troopers have encouraged backcountry recreationalists to travel in groups, pack provisions and safety gear and be aware of possible dangers in the snowpack.

Cell phones, avalanche transceivers, probes and shovels are recommended. It wasn't immediately clear what precautions the snowmobilers had, Ipsen said.

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