Bad Weather Closing Recovery Opportunity for Snowboarders

Bad Weather Closing Recovery Opportunity for Snowboarders

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(Salt Lake City-AP) -- Search teams may have to wait until spring to recover the bodies of two snowboarders swept up a week ago by a series of avalanches in Provo Canyon.

High winds and more snowfall kept searchers off the mountain for a fourth day today -- and a sheriff's deputy says the bodies may not be found for months.

The body of one snowboarder, Mike Hebert, 19, of Orem, was recovered on Sunday, but harsh weather has kept rescue teams from returning to look for the two others.

Another three feet of snow has fallen since all three were swept up by four slides on Friday in a major avalanche path that funnels down eleven thousand-foot Elk's Peak.

More snow was forecast overnight Thursday and high winds were loading ridgetop cornices.

Sheriff's deputy Dennis Harris says that makes the avalanche danger even more extreme for rescuers.

20-year-old Rod Newbury of Pleasant Grove and 18-year-old Adam Merz of Orem are presumed buried and dead under as many as 35 feet of snow and layers of almost impenetrable ice caused by the friction of the slides.

Searchers have broken metal shovels and aluminum poles looking for the snowboarders.

Harris says the prospects for recovery are diminishing with each snowfall.

Although the bodies may not be recovered until spring, Harris says rescue teams will return to the mountain when it's safe, if only for "training purposes."

Bad weather also has kept helicopters from dropping explosives on the chute to release additional snow and make it safer for rescue teams.

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.

An estimated ten thousand avalanches occur in Utah each year, with about 100 of those unintentionally triggered by humans. About 20 people are caught in avalanches every year.

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

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