A local 23 year old male triggered a 1-3’ deep hard slab avalanche in which he was caught, carried, and buried. The victim was traversing a 35 degree northeast facing slope when it fractured 80’ above him and 200’ wide. His partner, waiting in a safe zone, immediately began the search, but upon recovery, found no signs of life.
The victim’s partner was able to make a 911 call on his cell, which alerted the sheriff’s department and WBR. Wasatch Backcountry Rescue, in this case consisting of Solitude ski patrollers, was soon on the scene and able to efficiently extricate, package, and transport the victim to a landing zone near Twin Lakes. Life flight then transported the victim to a hospital in Salt Lake City.
Here are a couple of views of the avalanche. The victim was buried just uphill of the first group of large trees directly below the fracture.
A close up of the crown face.
This is looking down from the fracture line (or crown face) at the location where the victim was buried. He was buried just uphill of the trees.
Deseret Morning News, Sunday, December 12, 2004
Slide victim was skilled and careful
By Jennifer Dobner Deseret Morning News
Something in her mother's intuition had told Tami Eastman that a day like Friday might come.
Zach Eastman Family Photo
"I always knew I would lose Zachary to these mountains, I just didn't know which one," Tami Eastman said, one day after Zachary Eastman died in an avalanche in Big Cottonwood Canyon. "He had a love of the mountains and a love of the Wasatch."
Zachary, 23, was skiing with a friend in the Twin Lake Pass area between and above the Brighton and Solitude resorts when an avalanche broke loose above him at about 5 p.m.
He was the first of two people to die in avalanches along the Wasatch Front in the past two days. In addition, two snowshoers were missing late Saturday.
"Zach was in the lead; his friend was in the safe zone," the young man's father, Scott Eastman, said, recounting the story Zach's companion told about what happened on the mountain. "Zach crossed into open space and went to the other side. He said the snow felt sketchy, (so Zach) turned and started to come back . . . and then it just happened."
Both young men were experienced skiers who had frequented that part of the backcountry, Scott Eastman said. Zachary Eastman had trained in avalanche safety and spent some time working as a volunteer for the National Ski Patrol in the Park City area last year. And as early as last week, both men were honing their skills with avalanche beacons, Scott Eastman said.
"The one thing that's kind of helping me is that they did everything right," Scott Eastman said. "From what I know of the whole scenario, they followed all the protocols and did things right."
That includes the "textbook rescue" attempt Zach Eastman's companion attempted, Scott Eastman said.
Zach's friend, whose name has not been released, located Zach, dug him out of the snow and began CPR, pausing only to call 911 for help. A medical helicopter lifted Zach Eastman out of the canyon and to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
"The poor kid feels really badly, guilty, but he did everything right," Scott Eastman said again.
A provisional report of the incident from the Utah Avalanche Center posted Saturday night indicates that the slide in which Eastman died was between 1 and 3 feet deep and about 200 feet wide.
Eastman was traversing a 35-degree, northeast-facing slope, and the snow fractured about 80 feet above him, according to the report written by avalanche forecaster Drew Hardesty.
Zachary Eastman's parents said they can find some comfort in knowing their son died doing the thing he loved in the place he loved. Winter or summer, Zachary, who was studying nursing at Salt Lake Community College, was in the mountains.
"It was his passion," Tami Eastman said. "He would start (on) Timpanogos and climb all of those mountains. He would take his Ramen noodles and his water purifier and be gone for days."
Losing Zach to the mountains is somehow easier than losing him to a traffic accident caused by a drunken driver or in another sort of accident, his mother added.
"He was a very sweet boy, and I was privileged to be his mama on this earth," she said.
In keeping with his desire to help others and his career aspirations, Zachary Eastman was an organ donor, Tami Eastman added, so his empathy for others will be evidenced, even in his death.
© 2004 Deseret News Publishing Company
Deseret Morning News, Sunday, December 12, 2004
Slides injure one, claim 2nd victim in 2 days
By Brady Snyder and Jennifer Dobner Deseret Morning News
The lasting image Trace Workman has of his friend Ben Dejong is one of Dejong moving as fast as he could down a mountainside with a massive avalanche barreling down on him.
Trace Workman, left, and Corey Malan help Ben Dejong after he was buried in an avalanche up Farmington Canyon Saturday. Brian Gnehn, Via Davis County Sheriff
But 20 tons of snow move much faster than human legs can, and the 27-year-old from Bountiful was overtaken.
"I saw Ben, and he was running as fast as he can," Workman said. "It was like an ocean wave when it comes in, and it just engulfed him. There was this big powder cloud, and as soon as that settled I couldn't see nothing. I couldn't see one sign of him."
For the next 20 to 25 minutes Saturday morning Workman led a frantic rescue effort that included mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and ended with Dejong's life being saved.
Dejong was lucky, and his rescue served as a joyous highlight in an otherwise dangerous and deadly few days.
Snowslides in Utah's backcountry engulfed at least four people and killed two in the past two days in Salt Lake, Wasatch and Davis counties. Two snowshoers are missing.
- Dejong was caught while snowmobiling with Workman high in Farmington Canyon above Davis County.
- The victim of an avalanche Friday above Brighton and Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon was identified Saturday as Zachary Eastman, 23, Salt Lake City. A friend escaped.
- A snowmobiler was killed by an avalanche Saturday near Strawberry Reservoir. His identity has not yet been released.
- And two snowshoers were missing late Saturday in the Mineral Fork area of Big Cottonwood Canyon, where a Salt Lake County search and rescue effort there may have been hampered by slides.
State helicopter pilots assisting with the Mineral Fork search from the air reported "one major and one minor avalanche in the area," Salt Lake County Lt. Mike Wardle said.
The men, one aged 60 and one 32, were reported missing about 5:45 p.m. when they failed to return at the expected time, he said.
Because Mineral Fork is a high-risk area for avalanches — and because the avalanche danger has been so high in recent days — the search for the men was expected to be halted around midnight and resumed at first light, Wardle said.
Steve Achelis, left, of Salt Lake County Sheriff's Search and Rescue, talks with Sgt. Thad Moore about the search for two missing snowshoers in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
"All of these slides that have been breaking out have been 3 to 8 feet deep and very difficult to survive," said Bruce Tremper, director of the Utah Avalanche Center.
Avalanche forecasts over the past few days warned would-be backcountry recreationalists of the extreme danger and high potential for slides, especially on or below steep slopes.
"We've had all the important ingredients for an avalanche. We've had a quadruple whammy," Tremper said. "A weak layer of snow is one; a whole bunch of new snow, number two; wind, number three; and rapid temperature rises."
The avalanche-risk assessment, however, was dropped from "high" to "considerable" as snow conditions began to stabilize Saturday, Tremper said.
Despite those improving conditions, a 42-year-old man was killed near Trout Creek in Wasatch County's Strawberry Valley Saturday. The man, whose name was not released, was snowmobiling with a friend when his vehicle became stuck on a steep slope, Wasatch County Sheriff's deputy Corey Davis said.
The avalanche was reported about 11:30 a.m., Davis said, and measured about 500 feet long and 300 feet wide. It broke above the man and buried him in roughly 4 feet of snow. His companion was not caught in the slide, and with the help of another recreationalist, who was carrying an avalanche beacon, the pair was able to locate the man — who was wearing a beacon — and dig him out, Davis said.
The two called 911 from a cell phone. Investigators were still trying to determine how long the man was buried. A medical helicopter transported the man to a Utah County hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Davis said.
Twin Lakes Pass
Friday afternoon, Eastman was killed near Twin Lakes Pass near the Brighton and Solitude ski areas in Big Cottonwood Canyon. These are the second and third avalanche deaths in Utah in 2004. A snowshoer died in a Deer Valley slide in February.
"He was a free spirit, and (skiing) is what he lived for, that was his love," Eastman's father, Scott Eastman, said Saturday. "That's the only thing that's giving me a little peace in this."
Zachary Eastman and a friend had skied the area all day Friday, and both were trained in avalanche safety, his father said. As early as last week, the pair had been to a refresher course on using avalanche beacons, he said.
But sometimes with Mother Nature "you just don't know which way it's going to go," Scott Eastman said.
Dejong might have suffered a similar fate in Davis County.
Workman of Clinton and Dejong regularly frequent the backcountry of Farmington Canyon, snowmobiling below Bountiful Peak. Workman figures they visited the canyon 20 times last year, and with a few feet of fresh snow, Saturday seemed the ideal time to hit the powder again.
"They just love riding up in Farmington Canyon," Trace's father, Mark, explained. "They're these extreme riders."
It was Trace who apparently triggered the slide, which Davis County Sheriff's Capt. Kenny Payne described as "very large."
It was about 9 a.m. when Dejong was using a video camera to film some of his friend's moves in a lofty chute.
Then the mountain caved in.
"I climbed out of the chute and that whole mountainside came down," Workman said. "I looked down, and it was like the whole mountain went out from beneath me."
Down the hill Dejong desperately tried to start his snowmobile, but the engine wouldn't crank. With a dead motor, the Bountiful man turned and ran, only to be swept up in the powder.
Workman sped down the hill and began desperately searching for his friend. Fortunately, Dejong was wearing an avalanche beacon that allowed Workman to locate the area where his buddy was buried.
Workman dug with his hands for a couple of minutes before being joined by Corey Malan of Ogden.
"We just started digging frantically," Malan said.
The pair located Dejong's boot about 5 feet below the surface when Malan's two friends caught up with a shovel.
In a painstakingly slow five to eight minutes the foursome uncovered more leg, a knee, a thigh, a torso and finally Dejong's head, which was buried face down.
"At that point it was pretty dark," Workman said. "He was purple and blue and was pretty discolored. At one time I thought he was dead. I thought it was too late."
The rescuers said there was just a faint hint of breath coming from Dejong's mouth, and Workman offered some mouth to mouth that seemed to help.
The group had already used a cell phone to call for a medical helicopter, and as they waited Dejong lay unconscious for 10 to 12 minutes.
When the helicopter appeared over the mountain, Dejong suddenly sprang to life.
"The first thing out of his mouth was, 'I just can't believe you guys found me,' " Malan said.
Payne said Dejong was airlifted to University Hospital as a precaution. He had no broken bones or obvious injuries, Payne said.
It was a rescue effort that turned out much better than one Malan participated in back in 1996 when another friend, Rick Adams, was killed by a massive slide in Farmington Canyon. Searchers didn't find Adams' body for over a month.
'A life saver'
The difference was Adams' lack of an avalanche beacon, which issues a transmission that allows rescuers to pinpoint where a person in buried in the powder.
In Dejong's case, his beacon saved his life, police and rescuers said.
"It's a life saver," Malan said. "I won't go up without one."
Of course, a beacon does not give people a license to cheat death.
Eastman, the Salt Lake man killed Friday, was also wearing a beacon, but rescuers couldn't revive him despite using CPR.
Avalanche forecasters stressed that much of the new snow that blanketed the Wasatch Front mountains last week had not meshed with old snow, creating a great slide danger. Compounding the problem were sunshine and high temperatures, making the snow even less stable.
"That snow had not bonded underneath. Boy, there are avalanches all along those hills," Malan said. "There were at least six or seven in the next four bowls over. It's really bad up there right now. I told everyone I've seen going up there not to go."
Tremper said avalanche forecasters did allow an avalanche warning to expire Saturday morning, but he said conditions, with high temperatures and new snow, remain perilous.
Avalanche informationAvalanche warning and safety information is available from the Utah Avalanche Center. On the Web, see www.avalanche.org/~uac. The local avalanche hotline number is 801-364-1581.