Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2005-01-08
Submitted By: UAC
Place: Choke Cherry area east of Mt. Pleasant
State: UT
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 snowmobiler caught buried and killed

Accident Report ? Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center

January 8, 2005

Two people killed in separate accidents on the Wasatch Plateau

Provisional Report ? More details to follow

Two people were killed in two separate accidents on the Wasatch Plateau, also known as the Manti Skyline.

First, Garrett Luke Gordan, a 26 year old snowboarder from Ephriam, triggered an avalanche in Ephriam Canyon and was buried about 30 minutes before his partner located him with a beacon. He administered CPR and was flown by Life Flight to a Salt Lake area hospital.

An hour later, snowmobiler, David Wayne Johnson, 42, of South Jordan triggered an avalanche in the Choke Cherry area east of Mt. Pleasant and was buried. His companions located him, dug him out and he did not respond to CPR. It is unknown whether he was wearing a beacon.

All of Utah was hit by another large, Pacific storm with extremely strong winds, heavy snow and warming temperatures. The Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center had an Avalanche Warning in effect for all the mountains of Utah with a High avalanche danger.

This makes 6 fatalities for Utah this winter, which ties the all-time record for avalanche fatalities.


News Release

Sanpete County Sheriff Office

On 1-8-05 at approx 12:55 Sanpete County Sheriff?s Dept. was notified that a snow boarder had been caught and buried in an avalanche in Ephraim Canyon near the top. The person had on a beacon, and the party the victim was with, began searching for him. Search and rescue and EMS were deployed to the area. Sanpete Sheriff?s Dept. was later notified that the party with the victim had found him and dug him out and was doing CPR. Search and Rescue arrived on seen and life flight was called. The Victims condition is unknown at this time.

On 1-8-05 at approx 13:54 Sanpete County Sheriff?s Dept. was notified that a snowmobiler had been caught in an avalanche east of Mt. Pleasant in the choke cherry ridge area. Search and rescue and EMS were deployed to the area. The Sanpete County Sheriff?s Dept. later received information that the victim had been located by the party he was with and they requested life flight. The Victims condition is unknown at this time.

Sanpete County Sheriff?s Dept. strongly advise that people stay out of the mountain areas until avalanche conditions improve.

Sanpete County Sheriff?s Dept.

Article Last Updated: 1/09/2005 02:51 AM

Avalanches kill 2 men in Sanpete

Ideal slide conditions: Dense snow, strong winds and warming are making the backcountry dangerous

By Jason Bergreen

and Lisa Rosetta

The Salt Lake Tribune

Salt Lake Tribune

Two men died in avalanches in Sanpete County on Saturday, the latest victims of what has become an unusually dangerous season in Utah's backcountry.

Garrett Luke Gordan of Ephraim was snowboarding at about 1 p.m. when he was swept up in an avalanche near the top of Ephraim Canyon, said Andy Lyon, a Sanpete County Sheriff's Office sergeant.

Gordan, who was carrying an avalanche beacon, was buried for about a half hour before friends dug him out. They administered CPR until Sanpete County searchers arrived and called in a Life Flight helicopter. The 26-year-old was flown to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo where he was pronounced dead.

An hour later, a snowmobiler was buried in an avalanche east of Mount Pleasant in the Choke Cherry Ridge area, Lyon said. David Wayne Johnson, 42, of South Jordan, was dug out by searchers and flown to Sanpete Valley Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Craig Gordon, an avalanche forecaster at the U.S. Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center, said this winter is shaping up to be an unusual - and deadly - season for avalanches. Six people have perished in slides so far this winter, equaling the death toll of 2000-2001, according to Avalanche Center records.

"This is an unusual weather pattern, and unusual weather tends to produce unusual avalanches," Gordon said. A steady stream of storms in the region have brought high winds, heavy snowfall and fluctuating temperatures - "the perfect recipe for a slab avalanche," he said.

On Saturday, the mountains were blasted with winds up to 100 mph and between 6 and 8 inches of snow was forecast that night, said Bruce Tremper, director of the Avalanche Center.

"It's kind of a 'triple whammy,' as we call it," he said. "We get snow, dense and heavy, extremely strong winds and warming temperatures. People without good avalanche skills should definitely avoid the backcountry."

Avalanche danger continues to be high for all Utah mountains, even for low-elevation terrain, Tremper said.

While snow, rain and wind pelted other parts of Utah, Saturday in the Salt Lake Valley was sunny and dry. Though strong southerly winds whipped through parts of Salt Lake City on Friday night and Saturday, the majority of a large West Coast storm wasn't expected to produce snow in the valley until after midnight.

"The main storm itself is somewhat stationary along the West Coast," National Weather Service meteorologist Alex Tardy said.

Several inches of snow fell Saturday afternoon in Logan, Price and Heber, Tardy said. Alta Ski Resort has received about 18 inches of new snow since Friday, 6 of which fell Saturday, he said.

Winds gusting 30 to 40 mph were recorded in Salt Lake County, with some gusts reaching as high as 49 mph at the airport, Tardy said. High winds reaching up to 90 mph continued blowing in areas of the Wasatch Mountains.

Snow in Salt Lake City could turn to light rain today with temperatures reaching the mid 40s. More rain was expected Monday, with snow returning to the valley Tuesday, Tardy said.,