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Photos: Utah crews rescue 2 people buried by avalanche

One patient had to be extricated from beneath a vehicle; both were transported to a medical center


Photo/Morgan County Fire & EMS

By Helena Wegner
The Charlotte Observer

MORGAN COUNTY, Utah — Two people were on a snow vehicle on a Utah mountain when an avalanche came barreling down, rescuers said.

They were caught in the avalanche at about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, in the Gold Ridge area near Morgan, the Morgan County Fire and EMS said in a Facebook post.

They were with five other people who were also on a snowcat, the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said. A snowcat is a tracked vehicle that can drive on snow.

Once the avalanche buried the two, the other five began digging them out, deputies said.

They were able to reach one of the passengers who was later taken to a hospital with a head injury, deputies said.

But the snowcat had fallen on one man, trapping his leg beneath the massive vehicle, deputies said, so the passengers couldn’t get him out.

They dug a hole so he could breathe until rescuers arrived, deputies said.

Rescuers reached them within an hour and began working to save the man who stuck under the snowcat. Once he was freed, he was then airlifted to a hospital with a “significant leg injury,” rescuers said.

“Despite the challenging conditions and the treacherous terrain, personnel worked diligently to ensure that everyone involved was rescued safely,” the Morgan County Fire and EMS said.

Morgan is about 45 miles northeast of Salt Lake City.

What to know about avalanches

Avalanches happen quickly and catch people by surprise. They can move between 60 and 80 mph and typically happen on slopes of 30-45 degrees, according to experts.

Skiers, snowmobilers and hikers can set off an avalanche when a layer of snow collapses and starts to slide down the slope.

In the U.S., avalanches are most common from December to April, but they can happen at any time if the conditions are right, National Geographic reported.

At least 23 people in the U.S. have died in avalanches this season as of March 29, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

People heading into snow should always check the local avalanche forecast at, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, and have an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel ready.

“Emergency services are usually too far away from the scene of an avalanche, and time is important,” Simon Trautman, a national avalanche specialist, said. “A person trapped under the snow may not have more than 20 or 30 minutes. So, in a backcountry scenario, you are your own rescue party.”

If an avalanche breaks out, it’s best to move diagonal to the avalanche to an edge, Trautman said.

“Try to orient your feet downhill so that your lower body, not your head, takes most of the impact,” officials said. “You may also get into a tight ball as another way to protect your head.”

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