Search for Missing Snowboarders Called Off Monday

Search for Missing Snowboarders Called Off Monday

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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Officials called off the search Monday for two snowboarders, missing since Dec. 26.

High winds and swirling snow made conditions too dangerous for searchers, said Deputy Dennis Harris with the Utah County Sheriff's office.

Any decision to resume the search Tuesday would be made after a morning check of weather conditions, he said.

About 50 people returned to a major slide path in Provo Canyon on Sunday, probing as deep as 20 feet for Rod Newberry of Pleasant Grove and Adam Merz of Orem.

Newberry, 20, and Merz, 18, are presumed dead under as many as 35 feet of snow and layers of almost impenetrable ice caused by the friction of repeated avalanches. Searchers have broken metal shovels and aluminum poles looking for them.

A pair of trained dogs "alerted" at several spots in the avalanche chute on Sunday, but nothing was found, Harris said.

Early on in the search, authorities were able to recover the body of Mike Hebert, 19, of Orem, who had been with the other two snowboarders when they got caught up in a series of four slides. A funeral was held for Hebert on Saturday.

None of the snowboarders was carrying shovels or avalanche beacons despite traveling in what experts call one of the Wasatch Mountains' most dangerous avalanche chutes, off 11,000-foot Elk's Peak.

Hebert was the second confirmed avalanche fatality in Utah in 2003. The statewide total for avalanche-related deaths since 1951 will reach 73 if Merz and Newberry are added.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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