TNSAR Search 02/23/2009

Maggies Peak Avalanche

On Saturday 2-21-09 a skier left the Bayview Trailhead (above Emerald Bay) to go backcountry skiing. The avalanche hazard for the day was High as a result of fairly new snow and a weak bonding layer buried in the snowpack. When a friend saw his truck at the trailhead on Sunday morning he started trying to contact the skier but was unable to. Sometime Sunday afternoon he alerted authorities. Some friends of the skier went out searching on Sunday night in a rain storm with extreme avalanche hazard but found nothing.
TNSAR was dispatched at midnight to meet Monday morning 7:00 am at Vikingsholm parking lot. At 7:00, nine skiers assembled and after an hour were given search areas by Eldorado County Sheriff on all sides of Maggies Peaks. As the teams left their trailheads they discovered that friends of the skier were ahead and behind, above and below them as they were searching. Many were experienced backcountry skiers but it was disconcerting to be unable to communicate with them by radio or know where exactly they had been or were going. The avalanche hazard continued to be high to extreme due to continuing rainfall, and in fact, one team member was caught in a small slide but was unhurt.
At about 9:30 the Team 4 finished their search area near Cascade Falls and continued up Cascade creek, where they came upon a large avalanche debris field which came from a chute high on South Maggies Peak. (The field was about 800 feet long by 300 feet wide and 3-8 feet deep). There were two civilians searchers in the vicinty who had found a hat. Team 4 did a beacon search of the debris with no signal found, but did find a ski pole on the surface. It took almost an hour to get confirmation that the pole and hat were the missing skierís, due to the fact that the person who would have known, was in the field, searching, and out of touch with authorities. Team 4 started doing random probing in high probability areas and all other teams (and some civilians) moved to the area and assisted.
At about 11:30 a dog alerted in area that searchers had been probing and quickly the victim was uncovered- deceased. He was lying in the middle of a clump of willow bushes under about two feet of snow, about 50 feet from the toe of the debris field and 50 feet from the left flank.
After a deputy reached the scene and did his report, the victim was put in TNSARís breakaway Cascade sled and the arduous task of pulling and carrying him two miles to the trailhead commenced. For the second mile, 15 to 20 of his friends joined the teams and did the major part of the carrying- he was in good hands.

Sheriff Dispatch Comm Van Truck Skiers Snow Cats Snowmobiles Other
John Lasagna Marty Schoonmaker
Terri Viehmann
Kathy Chilcote
John Chilcote

John Pang Gerald Rockwell
Jesse Shirley
Russ Viehmann
Steve Twomey
Alex Gut
Mike LeFrancois
Bob Wright
Bernie Mellor
Dirk Schoonmaker
ElDorado Co Sheriff
Eldorado search teams