FATALITY ARTICLES

From: The Jackson Hole News
Dry Ridge Mountain – Searchers Monday suspended a search for a Newdale, Idaho, snowmobiler who was killed by a gargantuan avalanche in the Jedidiah Smith Wilderness on the West Slope of the Tetons Saturday.

The three-day search for 21-yearold Dan Schwendiman was called off by the Teton County Sheriff's Office Monday after intensive probing of the 50-foot-deep debris proved futile.

“We felt we've been over all the likely areas he could possibly be found in,” said spokesman Robbin Jenkins of the Targhee National Forest. “ We suspended the efforts ‘til the snow depths drop quite a bit.”

The avalanche roared down the west face of the 10,321-foot Dry Ridge Mountain Saturday morning while Dan Schwendiman, his brother Russel and friend Gary Ball were snowmobiling on the 35-degree slope. The mountain is located 11 miles northeast of Alta on the west border of Grand Teton National Park.

Russel Schwendiman was above the avalanche which swept brother Dan and Ball down in a torrent of raging snow. Ball told searchers later that he saw a 15-foot wall of snow rushing down on him and was then engulfed.

Twice in the terrifying ride the force of the avalanche shot Ball into the air – the second time throwing him almost clear of the slide.

Ball survived, partially buried, with a hairline fracture of his lower left leg. But neither he, Russel nor other snowmobilers in the area could locate Dan.

The Jedediah Smith Wilderness of the Targhee National Forest is off limits to snowmobiles and other motorized forms of transportation. Spokesman Jenkins said Tuesday Targhee officials have not yet decided whether they will cite the survivors.

“They may feel it's a slap in the face – or a warning for people who want to try things like this,” Jenkins said. “I think a decision will be made this week.”

The dimensions of the avalanche were almost overwhelming. Grim faced members of Schwendiman's family stared up at the awesome sight Sunday, offering their help when they could.

The avalanche cut a crown fracture that was up to six feet deep and an estimated two-thirds of a mile long. The avalanche ran a mile down the mountain, dropping approximately 2,000 vertical feet.

The area of disturbed snow covered some 250 acres. It was piled up to 50 feet deep in some locations.

Only a limited number of probe poles were longer than 10 feet, so much of the slide could not be searched effectively.

Hundreds of residents of Idaho's rural farming communities converged on the scene Sunday to volunteer their help. Tan-faced farmers from towns like Tetonia, Clawson and Felt joined with backcountry skiers and Forest Service and Grand Teton Park rangers to probe the debris for the lost snowmobiler.

A stoic Val Schwendiman, father of the victim, told a television reporter his son had been making up for the snow he missed while serving his mission for the Mormon church.

The search for the victim began Saturday afternoon with several search dogs flown to the site from the Jackson Hole Ski Area. Sunday's continuation of the search saw eight dogs on site – three from Jackson Hole Search Dogs and five from Rocky Mountain Rescue Dogs of Salt Lake City.

Teams of probers concentrated their efforts in places where the dogs showed interest. Other squads probed places on the slope where the probability of a victim being caught was highest.

More than 100 volunteers turned out Sunday, perhaps twice that many Monday. Yet all their hopes and help accomplished nothing.

Jenkins said incident commander John Daily, investigator with the Teton County Sheriffs Department, made the decision to postpone the search after consulting with the Schwendiman family. “They saw the extent of the search and realized as much as possible was being done,” the spokesman said.

Targhee officials said Tuesday thay are considering allowing the Schwendiman family access to the wilderness site by snowmobile to look for their lost relative as the winter continues.

Avalanche victim found dead of a broken neck
Searchers last week found the body of a Newdale, Idaho snowmobiler who died in an avalanche in the Jedediah Smth Wilderness Feb.29.

The body of Dan Schwendiman was discovered March 11, eleven days after he was swept down a mountainside in a snowy torrent. The body was transported to Jackson, where Teton County coroner Bob Campbell determined Schwendiman had died of a broken neck.

Schwendiman was found a day after an unofficial search team – composed of family members and friends – uncovered the 21-year-old man's snowmobile in the debris of the massive slide. The snowmobile was buried about four feet deep at the bottom of Dry Ridge Mountain in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness of the Targhee National Forest.

Snowmobiling is illegal in wilderness areas. Targhee officials were unavailable for comment this week on whether Schwendiman's two companions would be cited for violating the regulations.

Teton County Sheriff Roger Millward said this week he will send a bill for the search operations to the victim's family. “I don't think it should be the responsibility of the tax payers in Teton County to foot the bill for someone who was violating the law to begin with,” Millward said.

Millward said it was unfortunate that the family found out about plans to send them the bill through the press. He said there is no indication the family will not pay the several thousand dollars the search efforts are estimated to have cost.

Millward said he was sensitive to the family's plight. “I'm not trying to heap misery on misery,” he added.

Searchers discovered Schwendimans body after witnesses revised their opinion of the young man's location on the slide path at the time of the avalanche. The initial search, which lasted three days before it was suspended, came within yards of striking the snowmobile. The body was found some 90 yards downhill of the snowmobile.

It is possible the victim could have hit a tree while being carried in the slide. The snowmobile's windshield was torn off and its steering was knocked out of line, but it started and was driven from the scene.

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