An Elko, Nevada, snowmobiler died in a Wyoming avalanche on Friday. It is estimated that he was buried inverted under the snow for about 15 minutes.
Brandon Jones, 41, was snowmobiling away from his party late on Dec. 18 on “Suicide Mountain”. He triggered a medium-sized avalanche 24″ deep. He was able to deploy an airbag, which kept him near the snow surface with a leg sticking out.
“The balloon worked – it kept him up above. If someone would have seen it, he probably would have survived it, because they would have dug him out” said Lincoln County Coroner Dain Schwab.
When the other snowmobilers did recover him he lacked a pulse, was blue in the face, and wasn’t breathing. The man who found Jones suspected he had broken his neck. Schwab ordered a CT scan to see if this was a factor in the death. CPR was not administered, according to the coroner, who visited the scene the night of the accident.
“It was actually pretty dangerous just digging him out of there,” Schwab said. “We were up on the hillside under cornices that were unbroken.”
First Wyoming Fatality, in the Salt River Range
Jones and his group were snowmobiling in the Sheep Pass area, southeast of Afton at the far southern end of the Salt River Range. The slide occurred at nearly 10,000 feet on an eastern aspect.
The fatality marks the first lethal avalanche of the winter in Northwest Wyoming.
The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center Director visited the site on Sunday to investigate. He determined the avalanche ran over the crusted snowpack that baked in the sun during the dry spell in late November and early December.
“We dug a snow pit near the site yesterday, and we feel confident that this was all the new snow that has fallen since Dec. 11,” he said. “The avalanche conditions are still dangerous up there. People should be careful.”
The avalanche danger on Monday morning was still deemed “considerable” at high elevations in the Salt and Wyoming ranges, according to the morning forecast.
Jones had a wife, Mary, and three kids, Blayde, Ebony and Slayde, according to a Facebook post by the Elko business Evolution Powersports. A funeral service has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday in Malad, Idaho.