Officials Identify 4 Skiers Killed In Millcreek Avalanche; Family, Friends Remember Victims

Feb 7, 2021, 5:47 PM | Updated: Dec 23, 2022, 9:35 pm

MILLCREEK, Utah — Police have identified the four victims involved in Saturday’s deadly avalanche in Millcreek Canyon.

The avalanche claimed the lives of 26-year-old Louis Holian, 23-year-old Thomas Steinbrecher, 26-year-old Stephanie Hopkins and 29-year-old Sarah Moughamian.

On Sunday afternoon, a DPS helicopter sent rescuers in to recover their bodies, making a total of three trips into the canyon.

KSL-TV spoke with family and friends about two of the victims. Both had one thing in common: their extreme passion for the outdoors.

“She grew up in rural Idaho with her four siblings, playing in the mountains and climbing trees,” said Sarah Moughamian’s mom, Jill Moughamian.

“Jill and I taught her the great outdoors when she was young,” said her father, Matt Moughamian. “The best way to describe it is: she was now our coach, and she just zoomed by and just grasped and loved everything about the Wasatch Front.”

Sarah, 29, moved to Salt Lake City about 7 years ago and quickly fell in love with the mountains.

Photo of Sarah Moughamian. (Courtesy: Jill Moughamian) Photo of Sarah Moughamian. (Courtesy: Jill Moughamian) Photo of Sarah Moughamian. (Courtesy: Jill Moughamian) Photo of Sarah Moughamian. (Courtesy: Jill Moughamian)

“We wanted her to move back to Idaho, but we could never get her away from the Wasatch Front,” said Matt.

“She just loved it there,” said Jill. “She actually found her two loves — which were her soulmate Chris and her love of the outdoors.”

But on Saturday, Sarah’s parents got a call from her boyfriend that broke their hearts.

“When he called, I knew it was really bad news,” said her father.

Sarah, her boyfriend, and three others were backcountry skiing when the avalanche was triggered.

“She was out there with Chris, and he was one of those that did not get hit by the avalanche and was able to dig out a couple of people,” said Jill. “And when he got to her, he told us that he dug her out, but he couldn’t bring her back. We are so appreciative that he was there, though.”

Two other friends in Sarah’s group also died — Louis Holian, 26, and Thomas Steinbrecher, 23, both from Salt Lake City.

“He’s amazing. I’m gonna miss him, everyone is going to miss him, and everyone is going to miss those four people,” said Louis’s friend, Anthony Nocella.

Louis’ friends said he lived a very full life.

“He rode his bike, he didn’t watch TV, he ran, trail runned, he hiked, he climbed, he skied, he’s a beautiful person that I hope everybody strives to be like,” said Nocella.

The avalanche also wiped out a group of three other skiers, claiming the life of one of them — 26-year-old Stephanie Hopkins, who worked as a nurse at University of Utah Health.

The U said Stephanie was in the neuro critical care unit and was loved and respected.

Rescue crews worked tirelessly Sunday afternoon to recover the bodies of all four victims.

Two businesses where Louis worked shuttered their doors in mourning, and his friends kept watch at the base of the canyon.

“I didn’t feel comfortable sleeping knowing that he’s up there and I’m down there,” said Anthony.

While loved ones of both Louis and Sarah grieve their deaths, they take some comfort in knowing they died doing what they loved.

“She was there doing what she loved to do so much,” said Matt. “There wouldn’t be a better way. We never want to see her go, but it’s the best way she can go.”

The group of five was coming in from Big Cottonwood Canyon and the group of three came in from Millcreek.

The avalanche converged over them near Wilson Glade Basin.

Governor Spencer Cox reacted after the four victims were identified, saying in a statement that the loss has “shaken and saddened all of us.”

His statement read in full:

“The tragedy in Millcreek Canyon which claimed the lives of four young Utahns has shaken and saddened all of us. Abby and I send our deepest condolences and prayers to the families of Sarah Moughamian, Louis Holian, Stephanie Hopkins and Thomas Louis Steinbrecher during this heartbreaking time. We also extend our sympathies to their companions who escaped harm and thank all of the brave individuals involved in the recovery efforts.”

A GoFundMe* has been set up to “support the survivors as they grieve, victims’ families, the UAC and Wasatch Backcountry rescue.”

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk. 

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Officials Identify 4 Skiers Killed In Millcreek Avalanche; Family, Friends Remember Victims