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Avalanches kill 4 in Washington state


This news story was published on February 19, 2012.
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By Brian M. Rosenthal, The Seattle Times –

SEATTLE — Avalanches just minutes apart killed four people at two resorts Sunday — one burying three skiers at Stevens Pass ski resort in the Cascade Mountains and another sweeping a snowboarder off a cliff in Snoqualmie, Wash.

All four were in out-of-bounds areas of the resorts.

Just before noon, a snowboarder at Alpental, one of four areas at The Summit at Snoqualmie resort, was with two friends when he triggered an avalanche that caused him to fall about 500 feet over a cliff, authorities say.

Minutes later, 12 skiers in an ungroomed, out-of-bounds area at Stevens Pass resort were caught in an avalanche. Three of them did not respond to CPR and died, said Katie Larson, a spokeswoman with the King County Sheriff’s Office.

The bodies of the three skiers, all men in their 30s or 40s, were being removed from the area Sunday afternoon. All were experienced skiers, she said.

“It’s nature,” Larson said. “I don’t want to make it seem trite, but sometimes nature is bigger than we are.”

The men skied past a sign warning them that the area was out-of-bounds and that skiing was at their own risk, Larson said.

Earlier Sunday, the King County Sheriff’s Office said as many as eight others were missing in the Stevens Pass avalanche, but authorities said later that they were all accounted for.

The snowboarder’s friends safely returned to the mountain’s base and called for help, but rescue workers were unable to find him until an hour and a half later.

By the time they reached him, the snowboarder was unconscious and could not be revived.

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