LOCAL NEWS

Four People Killed In Millcreek Canyon Avalanche; Four Rescued

Feb 6, 2021, 12:39 PM | Updated: Feb 8, 2021, 6:27 pm

MILLCREEK, Utah — Four people were confirmed dead after they were overcome by an avalanche in Millcreek Canyon, according to the Unified Police Department.

Police said the avalanche occurred in the Wilson Glade area Saturday afternoon.

A total of eight people — who were all equipped with beacons — were involved, according to UPD, but only four survived.

Those individuals were able to dig themselves out of the snow and locate the other skiers.

“Today’s been a tough day,” said Wayne Bassham, commander for Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Search & Rescue.

Officials learned the skiers were actually in two separate groups — one had five, while the other had three — and they didn’t know each other.

More than 40 Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office SAR volunteer members and Wasatch Back Search and Rescue from Solitude and Brighton spent hours battling dangerous conditions to search for the survivors.

Rescue teams also included support from DPS helicopter and Intermountain Healthcare’s Life Flight, which sent three medical aircraft and crews.

“This is a really tragic situation,” said Bassham.

Because of dangerous conditions, rescuers had to be flown in.

“We had to have a hoist operation because we could not, at the time, land a helicopter safely in that area,” said the Commander.

That’s when rescuers realized there was a second group that got caught in the avalanche.

“We had two groups of individuals — one group from Big Cottonwood, one group from Millcreek,” said Bassham. “Apparently, they did not know each other; they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The skiers in both groups had beacons, but when the avalanche hit, only four survived.

“They unburied themselves, then unburied their friends,” said UPD Sgt. Melody Cutler.

Rescue teams focused on getting the survivors off the mountain — one suffered from hypothermia.  But with nightfall, recovery efforts for the four victims will resume in the morning.

“It was a beautiful day, absolutely beautiful day — sun was shining, pretty warm out — and I’m sure that’s why these people were out, just enjoying the sunshine and beautiful weather; they thought they would go out for a great ski and have it end in a tragedy like this,” said Cutler.

The skiers are said to be between 23 and 38 years of age.

It appears there were two survivors from the group of three skiers, and two survivors from the group of five.

Officials said they are not sure how the avalanche was triggered.

 

 

An avalanche warning was issued by the Utah Avalanche Center for northern Utah’s backcountry and is expected to last through Sunday morning.

Forecasters said there were large natural avalanches overnight, and human-triggered and more natural avalanches are likely throughout the weekend.

A UAC observer said there was a human-triggered avalanche in the Alexander Basin on Friday that was 3 feet deep and 500 feet wide. The skier who triggered the slide was not carried by the avalanche.

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Four People Killed In Millcreek Canyon Avalanche; Four Rescued