Authorities ended a large-scale search for victims of last week’s massive avalanche Monday and said there was a good chance that a body found over the weekend was that of the lone victim.
“Right now, we believe that we have taken the one sole victim out of there,” Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said at a news conference.
Trained dogs had helped searchers find the body Sunday beneath tons of snow. The presence of multiple sets of sweat shirts and gloves nearby had suggested possibly four additional victims.
The body of the man, Shane Maixner, 27, of Sandpoint, Idaho, was found under 4 feet of snow, Edmunds said. More than 150 rescue workers and 20 dogs were involved in the search.
Several witnesses claimed that they saw multiple people being buried by the avalanche near Park City, about 20 miles east of Salt Lake City. But Maixner was the only one who had been identified even before his body was found. A friend told a 911 dispatcher that he saw Maixner caught by the cascading mass of snow.
“If anybody could have survived, it would have been Shane,” his father, Joel Maixner, said from his North Dakota home. “He was in excellent condition. But the sheriff told me his head and chest were slammed into a tree. He died without a fight.”
Record Utah avalanche deaths
Including Maixner, seven people have been killed in Utah avalanches so far this winter — more than in any other year since the state started keeping records in 1951.
Maixner graduated in December from the University of Montana with a pre-med degree. He had just moved to Idaho to live with his sister and was looking for a job in Utah as a physician assistant, his father said.
The snow slide occurred in an out-of-bounds area near The Canyons resort that had been marked with skull and crossbones warning signs because of the avalanche danger.
Two weeks of wet, heavy snow created an extreme risk of avalanches in the Wasatch range, especially in the backcountry.
Two killed in Idaho
In northern Idaho, meanwhile, two snowboarders from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., were killed in an avalanche while snowboarding south of Mullan, the Shoshone County sheriff’s office said.
A third snowboarder, Sean Forbes, 22, survived and walked to a nearby house to call for help, deputies said.
The dead from Sunday’s accident were identified as Brian Brett, 24, of Bellingham, Wash., and Pete Tripp, 23, of Bend, Ore.
Freezing rain and avalanche danger Monday hampered efforts to reach the two victims, but a recovery team was able to remove the bodies by early afternoon, the sheriff’s office said.