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Avalanche kills 2 near Oakley

2 in the party of 4 snowmobilers buried in slide

An avalanche claimed the lives of two men snowmobiling Saturday afternoon about 10 miles east of Oakley.

Dead are:

Jason M. Wade, 29, Layton;

Steven R. Barlow, 29, Salt Lake City.

Wade and Barlow were two of a party of four snowmobiling in the Upper Chalk Creek area known as "the chutes," according to the Summit County Sheriff's Office.

The 12-foot-deep, 180-foot-wide avalanche, which spanned 350 to 400 yards, buried Wade and Barlow. It partially buried another man who freed himself and was able to locate where Wade and Barlow were buried.

Using a CB-like radio, authorities were notified of the avalanche.

The bodies were recovered about 7:30 p.m. Both were pronounced dead at the scene, despite efforts to resuscitate them.

Lt. Joe Offret said the fourth member of the party, who was the father of one of the men, was apparently helpless while he watched the avalanche bury and kill his son.

According to Summit County Search and Rescue Patrol, it had been snowing in the area periodically for about 12 hours. The snow, they said, was wet and heavy, making the area dangerous for people playing in the outdoors. The area is steep, which made for deep snow in certain areas.

Air space above the avalanche was closed for a five-mile radius to prevent planes and helicopters from triggering more slides while Search and Rescue crews recovered the bodies.

Craig Gordon, avalanche forecaster and educator for the Utah Avalanche Center, said that although he hadn't been to the backcountry area located near the Weber River and on the Wasatch-Cache and Uintah National Forest border for several weeks, he believes conditions there could be prime for avalanches.

"This year, snowfall has been below average and so areas that haven't received as much snow as they historically could have or should have have a weak, shallow snow pack. It can't sustain weight, " Gordon said.

This is the second avalanche that has killed a person recreating in Summit County this year.

On Feb. 27, Sharon Reinfurt of Bedford, N.H., was skiing in the backcountry near The Canyons ski resort. Investigators believe she triggered the slide that buried and killed her.

In January 2000, Summit County Search and Rescue Patrol responded to the same area where Reinfurt died. A Park City couple was killed by a slide they triggered, Berry said.

Gordon said the Utah Avalanche Center offers free courses to people who snowmobile. For more information, call 524-5304.


E-MAIL: lhancock@desnews.com