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February 12, 2014 at 12:45 PM

Bad weather scrubs efforts to airlift injured backcountry skiers

UPDATE, 12:45 p.m., Wed. | GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — Bad weather has scrubbed efforts to airlift two injured backcountry skiers who survived an avalanche that killed two others in northeastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains.

Baker County Undersheriff Warren Thompson said Wednesday morning that two National Guard helicopters had to turn back due to low visibility, and efforts now are focused on getting people out by ground.

He says a search and rescue team reached the skiers on foot and was working on using ropes to get the injured off a steep slope, where they are bundled in rescue baskets.

Thompson says three uninjured skiers were taken out by snowcat.

Most of the skiers were from the Seattle area. They were on a guided five-day trip with an outfitter from Joseph, Ore.

UPDATE, 5:45 p.m. | Oregon officials have confirmed that two cross-country skiers were killed. They were members of a party from the Seattle area, according to a news release from the Baker County, Ore., sheriff’s office. Two others were badly hurt. No names were provided.

The skiers were among eight people skiing together on a guided outing when the avalanche hit at around noon today, the release says. Two of the eight were guides.

Connelly Brown, owner of the Wallowa Alpine Huts Ski Outfitters, which arranged the ski outing, said there was an unconfirmed report that a woman suffered two broken legs and a man suffered one broken leg.

Baker County Sheriff Mitch Southwick said a helicopter was sent to rescue survivors, but it was unable to get closer than a half mile from the site. Members of a snowmobile club were also headed to the site as are helicopters from the Oregon National Guard and the Idaho National Guard, Southwick said in the release.

One of the skiers was able to alert authorities to the avalanche by cellphone, Southwick said.

The site of the avalanche is described as near Little Eagle Meadows, about 10 miles northwest of Halfway in the Southern Wallowa Mountains near Cornucopia, according to the release.

ORIGINAL POST | PORTLAND — Baker County, Ore., rescue officials are en route to the scene of an avalanche in the southern Wallowa Mountains, where several cross country skiers have sustained injuries.

Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett said Tuesday he could not confirm the extent of the injuries, because rescuers have not been able to reach the accident site. He said a LifeFlight helicopter also could not get closer than 1.5 miles from the skiers.

Connelly Brown, the owner of Wallowa Alpine Huts, said the skiers were members of an eight-person backcountry skiing group organized by his Joseph-based company. The group included two guides and six skiers.

Brown said a guide contacted him by cell phone after the avalanche hit at about noon, reporting two possible fatalities and two skiers with broken legs.

Comments | More in General news, The Blotter, Weather Beat | Topics: backcountry, Oregon, rescue


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