Summit avalanche kills snowboarder | SierraSun.com
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Summit avalanche kills snowboarder

SHERRY MAYS

A snowboarder died yesterday after a cornice broke loose and buried him almost 150 feet below a peak just off Old Highway 40 on Donner Summit.

Despite aggressive measures at the scene to revive the man, he was pronounced dead shortly after arriving by CHP helicopter to Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee at 1:35 p.m.

A massive search, involving dog teams, sno-cats and snowmobiles, was launched at 11:40 a.m., after a friend reported the avalanche by cellular phone to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, according to a Placer County Sheriff’s Office press release.

The 22-year-old East Indian man from New York state, whose name is being withheld until his family is notified, was found head-down, buried in six feet of snow, with his legs spread, about one hour past the time he was reported missing. He was found directly under the 4-foot deep cornice.

The cornice hung above “Poop Chute,” which is located on the eastern side of the Pacific Crest on U.S. Forest Service land, where avalanche warnings were canceled Tuesday. Rescue personnel said the snow gave way under the man’s weight.

Crews from the Donner Summit Fire Department, Truckee Fire Protection District and Boreal, Sugar Bowl and Donner Ski Ranch ski patrols arrived on scene and began a safety evaluation, aware that another avalanche could occur with the previous activity.

USFS Avalanche Forecaster Bob Moore, safety commander on scene, said a media helicopter flying overhead posed the biggest concern to the snow’s stability.

The search began 75 feet below where the man’s snowboard, goggles and hat were found in the avalanche’s rubble.

DSFD’s Rob Huseby, who was operations command on scene, said they quickly began a “hasty” search around tree wells.

At noon, two dog teams were released in the area. “Jake” and “Kenai,” two Australian shepherds, alerted the crews to the missing man as the first probes were going into the snow, according to Steve Atkins, a Sugar Bowl patroller.

Atkins said the man’s scent was detected because of his position under the “consolidated slab.”

The search efforts were aided by crews from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s Washington Ridge crew, North Tahoe Fire Department, Placer and Nevada County sheriff’s offices, California Highway Patrol and Tahoe-Nordic Search and Rescue.

The victim was flown under active cardiopulmonary resuscitation to the hospital, where officials said the initial cause of death was suffocation without any other visible signs of injury. It is reported a coroner’s investigation was requested to determine if any other factors contributed to the man’s death.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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