Man Snowmobiling Dies After Falling 900 Feet as Ice Shelf Breaks on Calif. Cliffs Causing Avalanche
23rd March 2021

A person was killed by an avalanche while snowmobiling in the Tahoe National Forest in California on Saturday.

The accident occurred around 12:50 p.m. local time after three people snowmobiled to the top of Frog Lake Cliffs, according the Sierra Avalanche Center.

Due to the weather, there was low visibility, which made it difficult to see the edge of the ridge. One of the people in the group stepped off their snowmobile, and when they took a few steps toward the ledge, a 40-foot section of the cornice broke off underneath them, officials said.

"They fell onto the slope below with the large cornice pieces" and were swept "down the slope over cliffs and through rocks and chutes," the avalanche center said in a statement.

The victim, who has not yet been identified, came to rest about 900 feet below the cornice from which they fell, before being found "with traumatic injuries incompatible with life."

RELATED: Skier, 33, Killed by Avalanche in Grand Teton National Park

Before emergency personnel arrived on scene, bystanders who witnessed the event from below attempted to perform CPR, but the victim was pronounced dead at the scene, according to officials.

In February, the United States marked its deadliest week of avalanches in more than a century after more than a dozen people died in the snow disasters.

Between Jan. 30 and Feb. 6, a total of 15 people were killed due to avalanches in Washington, Utah, Colorado, New Hampshire, Montana, California and Alaska, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).

The fatalities are now the nation's second-most avalanche-related deaths in a seven-day period, the CAIC stated on their Instagram.

The record falls behind the one set in 1910, when 96 people died in Washington at the Wellington townsite on the west side of Stevens Pass, according to CAIC's Instagram post.

"The period… has been exceptionally tragic," the CAIC wrote. "As avalanche forecasters and members of the communities impacted, we express our sincerest condolences and [remain] motivate[d] to fulfill our mission to provide avalanche information, education and promote research for the protection of life, property and the enhancement of the state's economy."

RELATED: 15 People Die in U.S. Avalanches in 7 Days — Why It's the Deadliest Avalanche Period in a Century

According to the U.S. Forest Service's National Avalanche Center, approximately 25 to 30 Americans will die in avalanches each winter.

However, with 32 people already confirmed dead from the snow disasters this season, experts are becoming alarmed at the abnormal frequency and working to figure out the cause.

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With the likelihood of more avalanches striking, according to the CAIC, experts urged people to be careful when on snowy mountains, reminding them that no amount of experience can prepare you for an avalanche.

"This isn't really a problem you can outsmart," Utah Forecast Center's Nikki Champion told CNN, noting that people should check their local avalanche forecasts, never go alone and bring appropriate gear to help escape if an avalanche occurs, such as a shovel, beacon and probe.

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