No Trace of Avalanche Victims Found

No Trace of Avalanche Victims Found

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PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- Rescue workers spent all day Saturday digging through a massive snow pile but found no traces of five people feared dead in a 300-yard-wide, 500-yard-long avalanche that cascaded down a Utah mountainside a day earlier.

Exactly how many skiers were buried in the Friday afternoon snow slide remained unclear late Saturday afternoon.

No Trace of Avalanche Victims Found

Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said officials were still trying to match eyewitness accounts to a list of skiers who were thought to be in the area when the avalanche happened.

Sheriff's Capt. Alan Siddoway said officials knew of five people who were unaccounted for when the search resumed Saturday morning.

As of late Saturday afternoon as the day's search was winding down, searchers had confirmed the identity of only one victim, a Montana man in his 20s whose name was not released.

Six crews and rescue dogs were poking the snow, up to 30 feet deep in some areas, in an area outside the boundary of The Canyons resort on federal land in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest.

The search had shifted from a rescue to a recovery mission by Friday evening. With such a huge amount of snow to search through -- about the size of three football fields with snow 30 feet deep is some spots -- progress was slow.

Searchers have probed 80 percent of the debris field by the time the search was called off Saturday night. Once that is complete, Edmunds said they would go back and do it a second time. If nothing is recovered, machines would be brought in to strip away layers of snow to help the volunteers.

No Trace of Avalanche Victims Found

"It's very frustrating because these kids should not have been in that area. This was an area that was roped off and signed, and they just chose to ignore it," Edmunds said.

The sheriff said in Summit County, it's a illegal to leave the resort and ski onto national forest land.

"It's frustrating because we're putting volunteers in a dangerous area. They're risking their lives trying to make a recovery."

The danger of more avalanches remained high in the Wasatch Mountains, which received as much as eight feet of wet, heavy snow over the last two weeks.

No Trace of Avalanche Victims Found

Bruce Tremper, director of the Utah Avalanche Center, said the area beneath Dutch Drop had already been heavily skied by those who ignored avalanche warnings, which included signs plainly saying the danger was high and "YOU CAN DIE" in bold print with a skull and crossbones.

It was just a matter of one skier hitting "just the right spot" to release a slide, Tremper said. "It's like a mine field."

No Trace of Avalanche Victims Found

Six people have already been killed in Utah avalanches this winter and it's still relatively early in the season. The total is the highest since the state began keeping records of avalanche deaths in 1951.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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