- Associated Press - Friday, January 3, 2020

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - An avalanche that killed two snowmobilers on New Year’s Day happened in an area that wouldn’t have been expected to slide, a western Montana coroner said.

Jade Green, 24, and Lowell Grosvold, 26, were buried under several feet of snow near Lake Dinah, northwest of Seeley Lake, in a tragedy Missoula County Coroner Capt. Bill Burt said shook “the foundation of my belief system with avalanches.”

“I’ve recreated in this particular area on dozens of occasions,” Burt said during a briefing Thursday. “It not something we’d expect to slide. There are a lot of anchor points - trees and rocks, big rock outcroppings. This wasn’t a situation where people were playing on a hillside and not aware of the dangers. I think this really caught all three of them off guard, and likely would have caught any of us off guard.”

A a third snowmobiler caught in the slide was able to dig himself out and call 911. Green had a transceiver and was located under 4 feet (1.2 meters) of heavy, wet snow. Grosvold did not have an avalanche beacon and was eventually found under 9 feet (2.7 meters) of snow with the help of other snowmobilers in the area, Burt said.

The West Central Montana Avalanche Center had issued an avalanche warning for the area Wednesday morning after more than a foot of heavy, wet snow had fallen overnight.

Burt said he would classify the victims, who are both from Anaconda, as being expert snowmobilers.

“They weren’t in an area they shouldn’t have been in, they weren’t doing things they shouldn’t have been doing, they were simply out enjoying New Year’s Day, recreating with friends,” he said.

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