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Search Effort Resumes in Provo Canyon

Search Effort Resumes in Provo Canyon

Posted - Dec. 28, 2003 at 12:04 p.m.



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PROVO, Utah (AP) -- A hat was found Sunday morning when the search resumed for three men missing since being buried by an avalanche while snowboarding in the northern Utah backcountry Friday afternoon.

A chopper from the Utah Department of Public Safety surveyed the area for about half an hour before it was deemed safe for four teams with rescue dogs to trek back up the hillside in Provo Canyon to begin the search again.

The gray ski hat was sniffed out by a dog after the first search teams started Sunday morning. According to the description given to the men's families, the gray hat was determined to belong to 18-year-old Adam Merz, Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy said.

The dogs continued to sniff for a scent and rescue workers kept poking and prodding the deep snowpack, hoping to find the three bodies or another sign that they may be nearby. The search was halted so crews could use explosives to blast away loose snow as a precaution against further avalanches. Rescue workers were then to begin a grid search.

"We know they're up there. It's just a matter of time," Yvette Rice, a spokeswoman for the Utah County Sheriff's office, said Sunday morning.

Rod Newberry, 20, Merz and Mike Hebert, 19, had not been seen since Friday afternoon, when an avalanche swept over them and two friends, who survived. A day of extensive searching over 10 acres on Saturday found no sign of the missing men.

The group was snowboarding in a remote area where there is no avalanche control, about a mile north of Sundance ski resort and about 25 miles northeast of Provo. They were swept a half mile down a narrow chute above Aspen Grove. Two smaller avalanches followed, Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy said.

Two other groups of skiers or snowboarders also were caught in the main avalanche, but both managed to get out.

Utah County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Dennis Harris estimated 160 volunteers and rescue workers -- more than twice Saturday's total -- from six counties were available Sunday to assist in the search.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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