Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2001-03-18
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Summit Lake, behind Courage Mountain
State: AK
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 2 snowmobilers caught, carried, 1 buried and killed.

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Daily News reporter Lisa Demer contributed to this story.

Avalanche kills snowmobiler; another dies in fall off cliff

TOLL: Incidents raise deaths this winter to 26, believed to be a record.

The Associated Press

(Published March 19, 2001)

An avalanche Sunday killed one snowmobiler south of Delta, according to Alaska State Troopers,

while another rider went over a cliff in the Talkeetna Mountains and died of his injuries several

hours later.

Killed in the avalanche was Gary Frederick, 37, of Delta, troopers said. The victim who went over

the cliff was identified as Vic Larson, 36, of Wasilla.

Sunday's incidents make this a record winter for snowmobile fatalities in Alaska. At least 26

snowmachiners have been killed, and two others from Western Alaska are missing. Previously,

the highest number of known snowmobiling deaths was 25, just last winter.

In the incident near Delta, two snowmachiners were buried in an avalanche near Summit Lake

behind Courage Mountain about 3 p.m. The area is about six miles east of the Richardson

Monument at Mile 198 of the Richardson Highway, about 70 miles south of Delta.

The group of snowmachiners was stopped when the avalanche let go, witnesses told troopers.

They tried to get out of the way, but Frederick and Bambi Bender, 25, were caught in the slide.

About 20 people began probing the area immediately after the avalanche, troopers said, and

Bender, of North Pole, was quickly pulled out. She was uninjured, according to troopers.

Frederick was found about 15 minutes after the avalanche. He was buried about 15 feet in the

hard-packed snow. It took about 45 minutes to dig him out, and attempts to revive him were

unsuccessful.

In the second accident, Larson apparently went over a cliff at Chitna Pass in the Talkeetna

Mountains east of Palmer, troopers said.

He was riding with a group when the accident occurred around 1 p.m. Members of the group were

able to reach Larson, while another rider rode into cellphone range and contacted troopers about

2:30 p.m.

Larson drifted in and out of consciousness and then died of his injuries about 6:30 p.m.,

according to trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson.

Wind kept helicopters from getting into the area Sunday afternoon. Troopers were hoping to

recover the body by helicopter today, Wilkinson said.

Troopers suspended the search Sunday morning for one of the missing riders, saying leads had

been exhausted. Mike Wassilie, 46, of Akiachak hasn't been seen since he left the village March

9 by snowmachine to go to Nunapitchuk, 20 miles away. One hundred twenty-five ground

searchers and six aircraft covered 4,000 square miles in the eight-day search, troopers said. Ten

villages were involved.

An effort to recover the body of another missing man continued. Searchers believe they have

narrowed down the section of the Yukon River where Nathan Evan of Marshall may have gone in.

They pulled his snowmachine out of the river near Russian Mission on Friday afternoon and found

his rifle Sunday.

A number of snowmachiners went through the ice this year.

"Out in Western Alaska, where so many of these deaths occurred, snowmachines are used just

like a car," Wilkinson said. "We've had an exceptionally warm winter. It made for poor ice

conditions."

Daily News reporter Lisa Demer contributed to this story.