Teton County authorities say the family of an Idaho man killed by an avalanche will be held liable for the costs of a search to find his body.
Sheriff Roger Millward said he plans to charge the family for the search efforts because Schwendiman and his two companions were snowmobiling in a restricted wilderness area and recklessly endangered their own lives and the lives of the searchers.Millward said his agency spent $7,500 looking for the body of Dan Schwendiman, 21, of Newdale, Idaho, who was killed last month.
The costs include $5,900 spent on helicopters used to ferry search dog teams and ground crews to the Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area where Schwendiman disappeared, plus $1,425 for food for the searchers. Another $180 was spent on gasoline, Millward said.
Not covered in the $7,500 figure is some 4,344 volunteer-hours or the expenses incurred by the volunteers during the official search, the sheriff said.
"I don't know if taxpayers are responsible," the sheriff said. "Criminal charges could have been filed."
Schwendiman vanished on Feb. 29 while traversing a steep slope in the wilderness area near Dead Horse Pass. An avalanche triggered by another snowmobiler swept over the man and his snowmobile.
The sheriff said Schwendiman and his companions were crossing a known avalanche corridor under dangerous conditions. There was an avalanche warning in effect on the day of the accident, he noted.
While officials initially called the search off after several days of digging through the snow for Schwendiman, a search party organized by the man's family found the body last week.
According to the sheriff, the man suffered a broken neck in the accident.