Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2010-04-04
Submitted By: UAC
Place: Francis Peak northwest of Farmington
State: UT
Country: USA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 snowmobiler caught, buried, and killed


From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Snowmobiler killed in Morgan County avalanche

by Erin Alberty and Lindsay Whitehurst

The Salt Lake Tribune

Updated: 04/04/2010 10:37:51 PM MDT

A Bountiful man died Sunday after he was buried in an avalanche while snowmobiling in Morgan County.

Lee Gardner, 43, was riding with a friend in the northwestern part of the county about 2 p.m., when a slide on Francis Peak buried him, said Morgan County Deputy Sheriff Derek Engstrom.

Gardner's friend dug him out and called for help. But a medical helicopter crew could not find a pulse when they arrived about 2:30 p.m. He was pronounced dead an hour later.

The avalanche occurred just below the Francis Radar Station on the mountain and is believed to have started because of human activity, Engstrom said. Engstrom did not know how wide or long the slide was. He said there have been no other avalanche injuries there in recent years.

But the avalanche danger there now is considerable, said Craig Gordon, forecaster with the U.S. Forest Service Utah Avalanche Center.

"In the Ogden-area mountains, there have been several large avalanches in the past few days," Gordon said.

The Avalanche Center classifies the current danger as "considerable" throughout northern Utah, with many exceptionally dangerous pockets, Gordon said.

"Whenever we talk about a pockety avalanche danger, ... that's when people need to be on their toes and carefully evaluate slopes on an individual basis," Gordon said. "Human-triggered avalanches are probable."

The risk likely will not subside in coming days, with a winter storm warning in effect throughout eastern Utah.

"The Wasatch Mountains have had over 40 inches of snow since the April Fool's storms started. The snow keeps on stacking up, and there's been very little break in the action for the snow to gain strength and stabilize," he said.

"Even though it feels like spring, its still definitely winter up in the mountains," Gordon said.