LOCAL NEWS

Avalanche-Related Deaths In Utah Take Emotional Toll On Rescuers

Feb 11, 2019, 8:17 PM | Updated: 8:43 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Experts say the increased number of deaths has been taking an emotional toll not just on family and friends of the victims, but on search and rescue teams, as well.

On average, there are three avalanche-related deaths in Utah each year. In just the past four weeks, five Utah men have been killed in avalanches. Four of those deadly slides happened within state boundaries.

Mark McNeal is the ski patrol director at Brighton Ski Resort. He and his dog, Zak, are members of Wasatch Backcountry Rescue. They’ve been helping people for 9 years.

Zak gets excited to do his job, but McNeal said it can occasionally be a very somber one.

“Most of our rescues are people who have been injured in the backcountry,” said McNeal.

Sometimes though, it’s already too late.

Their most recent recovery mission was just a few days ago. They went to Beaver County to recover the body of Brad Stapley. The St. George man was buried in an avalanche Thursday, while riding a snowmobile.

McNeal and Zak were the first dog team to arrive on scene.

“We were able to search a very specific area and it only took him a handful of minutes to locate him,” said McNeal.

McNeal said he knows what his job entails. By the time he and his dog are called out, it usually means it’s already too late for the victim. That doesn’t ease the emotional toll it takes.

“It is emotional,” he said. “On the scene we’re there to do a job but I’m talking with family members and stuff afterwards and it definitely hits home.”

Despite the nature of the business, search and rescue crews feel the magnitude of their jobs. Even when they can’t save someone, they’re still helping others, and that’s a reward all by itself.

Avalanche forecasters say the reason conditions are so dangerous this year is because there is a lot of dense snow piled high on top of weak, powdery snow.

They say the one thing you can do to stay safe is avoid areas like steep slopes, where avalanche danger is high.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Cottonwood High lines up for a free kick following a fair catch against Jordan High. (KSL Sports)...
Andrew Adams

Coach, kicker & official reflect on Cottonwood High’s rare, game-winning play

Cottonwood defeated Jordan High after the Colts attempted and converted a free kick for three points with 12 seconds left following a fair catch on a punt.
11 hours ago
...
Karah Brackin

Utah veterans head to Washington DC for ‘trip of a lifetime’

75 veterans left Salt Lake City for Washington D.C. Tuesday morning.
11 hours ago
Clark Aposhian, chairman of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, introduces himself as a member of a n...
Ashley Imlay, KSL.com & Aimee Cobabe, KSL NewsRadio

Supreme Court declines to hear Utah gun rights activist’s appeal to overturn bump stock ban

A prominent Utah gun rights activist has lost his bid to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the federal bump stock ban.
11 hours ago
Yvette Rodier, shooting survivor...
Amy Donaldson, KSL Podcasts

LETTER PODCAST: Victim says bullet wounds were easiest part of recovery

When Yvette Rodier woke up in a hospital, she knew, even before anyone told her, that her friend, Zachary Snarr, was dead.
11 hours ago
Housing construction....
Ladd Egan

Unaffordable Utah: Mortgage rates climb again as buyers look for price reductions

Utah's housing market is whiplashing as last year's buying frenzy seems to have slowed down to signs of a recession.
1 day ago
FILE...
Matt Gephardt & Sloan Schrage

Get Gephardt: How cybercriminals use social engineering to get us to hand over our sensitive info

You can have the strongest, most secure password in the history of cybersecurity, but the bad guys know there is one weakness they can use to hack into your system - you!
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Avalanche-Related Deaths In Utah Take Emotional Toll On Rescuers