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UDOT avalanche forecaster dies in Big Cottonwood Canyon

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Posted at 8:36 PM, Apr 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-12 21:17:58-04

BIG COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah -- A Utah Department of Transportation avalanche forecaster died Thursday in an avalanche at Big Cottonwood Canyon.

A UDOT representative said 34-year-old Craig Patterson was testing the snowpack on the east-facing side of the canyon in the Cardiff Fork area when he was caught in the avalanche.

"When the victim didn't get home this evening, his family then contacted co-workers who began searching for him. They found his truck here in the parking area of Cardiff Fork and so they began searching in this area," Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said Thursday.

It is unknown if Patterson triggered the avalanche, but the testing technique he was using has been known to trigger avalanches before.

Crews searched the area via helicopter and were able to find Patterson's body.

"[Patterson] did have his safety equipment with him. They even have these airbags that deploy on their backpacks. He was able to deploy this airbag and, when they found him, he was on the surface of the all the debris," said UDOT spokesman Adan Carillo.

Patterson was the first UDOT avalanche forecaster to have died while on the job. UDOT says they will investigate his death in hopes of preventing this type of accident again.

"Whether it was something he triggered himself and the got caught in it. It's something we'll have to review for quite some time to make sure it doesn't happen again," Carillo said.

UDOT released the following statement:

"The UDOT family lost one of our own Thursday when veteran avalanche forecaster Craig Patterson died in a snow slide. Craig had worked with the department since 2006 and was a veteran back country skier. He was out doing the job that he loved to do, making the canyon safer for everyone to enjoy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones as we continue to gather information about this terrible tragedy."

Governor Gary Herbert released the following statement:

“I am deeply saddened by the death of Craig Patterson in the line of duty. By all accounts, he was a dedicated state employee who was admired and respected for his professionalism and expertise in making our canyons safer for countless Utahns. He also was devoted father and loving husband. During this difficult time, Jeanette and I offer my sincerest condolences and heartfelt prayers on behalf of all Utahns to Craig’s wife Renea and their daughter. He will be dearly missed.”