Bobby MacLeod Killed in Crater Lake Snowslide on Teton Pass Sunday Eve

From: Jackson Hole Courier
Death rode an avalanche down from the towering Teton mountains late Sunday afternoon, bearing the life of young Robert MacLeod away on icy wings. The slide which was 4,000 feet long, had a vertical fall of about 2,800 feet and came with terrific velocity. In its descent it stripped Crater Lake of its accumulated ice, snow and water and left the bed dry. The depth of the snow at the heart of the slide was estimated at more than twenty feet, spreading out in diminishing depth over a width of about 200 yards. It was reported by highway employees to have been the largest snow avalanche on the Crater Lake run in ten years, when a similar slide claimed the life of young Harry Swanson.

The story of the accident, as related by eye-witness Virgina Huidekoper, and near-victim Ted Major, together with statements from others at the scene follows:

It was about five o'clock and a party was returning from an afternoon's skiing up on Teton Pass. Dr. MacLeod's car, with the doctor driving and having as passengers his daughter Janet, Beulah Jeane Brown, and Virginia Huidekoper, was in the lead, followed at a short distance by a jeep driven by Ted Major, with James Huidekoper riding with him in front and Bobbie MacLeod alone in the rear seat.

As they approached the Crater lake area they passed Harry Brown and Dorothy Becker skiing down the road. Dr. MacLeod stopped momentarily to ask them if they wanted a lift, but they said there was a station wagon waiting for them down the road. As they drew up beside the station wagon, parked about 100 feet this side of the Crater Lake culvert, the doctor paused again for a moment to tell the occupants, Mr. And Mrs. James Simon of Moran, Mrs. Bob Brown and Young Roy Weston, that Harry and Dorothy were just around the bend. Major slowed down his jeep and just as he put in the clutch to shift gears, the avalanche struck. Perhaps the wind which was raging drowned out the roar of its approach; at any rate there was no warning, although Virginia stated that an onrush of air caused her to instinctively close the car window just as the slide struck.

Major relates that from then on all was a blank to him. He remembers a shock, and being hurled high into the air, and during that split second he thought perhaps the jeep gas tank had exploded or that an unseen truck had crashed into them from the rear. The impact felt by the MacLeod car was at first thought by its occupants to have been the jeep running into them on the steep downhill grade; they looked behind and saw nothing but the sweeping avalanche of snow, and then they saw, some distance ahead, the tread of tire barely showing through the bank of snow, which by that time had almost engulfed their car and the station wagon. The snow was up to the windows but they rolled them down and scrambled out of the cars and sped to the buried jeep.

With their bare hands and skis from the top of the station wagon, they dug frantically, not knowing if the occupants were under the vehicle or scattered along the road under the snow. A shovel was produced from one of the cars to help with excavating. Mrs. Bob Brown put on skis and started to Wilson for help and Mrs. Simon went back up the road to inform Miss Becker and Harry Brown. Mrs. Brown was picked up by a truck on the road near Scofield's sawmill and taken to Wilson as rapidly as possible. From there she telephoned St. John's Hospital and Doctors Elmore, Pennoyer and Van Vleck with rescue equipment, at once started out. A rescue party immediately left Wilson with shovels and other digging tools, and an emergency hospital was set up at the Stagecoach Inn, in readiness should any of the victims require it when found. Highway department men with snow shovels hurried from Jackson along with others to aid in the rescue. Meantime back at the scene of the accident Harry Brown and Miss Becker had skied over the slide and were assisting.

After some time had elapsed, the diggers came upon one of Mr. Huidekoper's hands, which he was moving in an effort to claw away the snow. An opening was speedily made to let air in, and Major states that he is sure that is what saved him and Huidekoper as they were not only smothering from lack of air, but being asphyxiated by fumes from escaping gasoline from the jeep's tank.

After being buried for about 45 minutes Major was extricated, but it took half the three-quarters of an hour longer to get Huidekoper and Bobbie out from under the jeep and snow. Bobbie, who had been sitting in the back seat, was completely encased in the heavy, cement-like snow; the others were wedged in under the dash, which perhaps gave them more opportunity to breathe. Ted suffered only minor injuries and a physical examination showed him to be okay. Huidekoper, who was jackknifed under the instrument board, was first thought to be in serious condition with possible internal injuries and perhaps pneumonia from fluid accumulation in his lungs. Attention was speedily given to the boy Bobbie, and artificial respiration was maintained for two hours after reaching Wilson, but his body was apparently lifeless when recovered from the crushing weight of the snow.

Evidence shows that the jeep was hurled through the air on the crest of the first wave of snow, completely over and twenty feet or more ahead of the other vehicles, on down the road, where it was engulfed in the rising flood of snow and ice, facing the opposite direction to which it had been traveling

The highway department worked with all the equipment at their disposal for town days before the road was cleared sufficiently to let traffic through. While other slides have already run this year, this was the first one of the season to come down the Crater lake run.

Our partners
Friends of BT Avalanche Center
Tower 3 Investments