- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2005

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) — Authorities yesterday ended a large-scale search for victims of last week’s massive avalanche and said there is a good chance that a body found over the weekend was the lone victim.

“Right now, we believe that we have taken the one sole victim out of there,” Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said at a press conference.

In northern Idaho, meanwhile, two snowboarders from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., were killed in an avalanche on Sunday while snowboarding south of Mullan, the Shoshone County sheriff’s office said.

A third snowboarder, 22-year-old Sean Forbes, survived and walked to a nearby house to call for help, deputies said.

The two snowboarders who died were identified as Brian Brett, 24, of Bellingham, Wash., and Pete Tripp, 23, of Bend, Ore. Freezing rain and avalanche danger yesterday hampered efforts to reach the victims, but a recovery team was able to remove the bodies by early afternoon, the sheriff’s office said.

Friday’s avalanche in Utah produced a 16-acre field of snow that measured up to 30 feet deep in spots, and eyewitness accounts of the slide initially led authorities to believe that as many as five people might have been caught.

The body of Shane Maixner, 27, of Sandpoint, Idaho, was recovered Sunday with the help of trained dogs, and rescuers thought that the discovery of clothing items meant more victims were nearby.

But Sheriff Edmunds pulled back from that yesterday, saying it’s common during rescue efforts to find incidental items unrelated to a search.

“There’s been four solid days, and there’s just no reason to believe that there’s more victims out there,” Sheriff Edmunds said.

Yesterday was the last day searchers would gather in large numbers at the site because fatigue was setting in, Sheriff Edmunds said. A limited search will continue, but bigger groups won’t scale the mountain again unless authorities receive a credible tip that someone is missing.

Eyewitnesses said they saw several people being buried by the avalanche near Park City, about 20 miles east of Salt Lake City. But Mr. Maixner was the only person who had been identified as missing — even before his body was found.

The slide occurred in an out-of-bounds area — marked with skull-and-crossbones signs warning of avalanche danger — near the Canyons resort.

Including Mr. Maixner, seven persons have been killed in Utah avalanches so far this winter — more than any other year since the state started keeping records in 1951.

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