Snowmobiler dead after Sevier County avalanche

Posted at 11:06 PM, Mar 01, 2013

SEVIER COUNTY, Utah – A man is dead after he was trapped in an avalanche in the Long Valley area in Sevier County on Friday afternoon.

According to a police report from the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, the man was part of a group snowmobiling in the area. The man's family said the man left the group to climb the hill on his own. After a few minutes they could not hear the man, which is when they noticed fresh avalanche snow.

They could see tracks leading into the area but not leading out, so they began to search for him immediately, according to the police report. The avalanche occurred around 4 p.m., but the victim’s father had to ride his snow machine to Mayfield before he could call for help

Emergency crews from Sanpete, Sevier, Emery and Piute Counties were able to locate the victim’s snowmobile and then the victim, who was buried under 5 to 10 feet of snow, shortly after 9 p.m.

Police identified the victim as James Childs. A medical professional with the search and rescue crews pronounced Childs dead at the scene, though he was flown to Gunnison Valley Hospital.

Officials say the slide was estimated at 150 yards wide, 100 yards long and at least 10 feet deep. Childs was wearing a helmet, but he did not have an avalanche beacon.

Craig Gordon, Utah Avalanche Center, said the snow pack is shallow in that area, which increases the danger.

"Thin snow means weak snow, and of course once we start adding snow on top of that, we see close calls, we see avalanches, and unfortunately in this case we saw a fatality," he said.

Relatives said Childs had four children under the age of 8. A fund has been set up to help Childs' family--Donations can be taken to any Zions Bank or America First Credit Union location. The accounts are under James Childs' name.