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Avalanches in Sierra, Colorado, Utah Kill 5

February 08, 1999|From Associated Press

TRUCKEE, Calif. — An avalanche in the Sierra Nevada mountains buried four people for hours, killing one, while three men died in an avalanche in the Colorado Rockies and a man on snowshoes was engulfed in a massive slide in Utah.

In California, where 2 feet of snow recently fell in the Lake Tahoe area, three men and a woman were sledding Saturday afternoon when snow gave way.

All four were buried in up to 6 feet of snow along the shore of a lake in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains.

Derek Lerch, 21, said he and Harry Eichelberger, 21, of Chicago, were buried close enough to each other that they could converse. But they had lost contact with their friends and assumed they were dead.

"At first, I made a vent that I could breathe through," Lerch said. "Harry used the vent with me for the next several hours until we lost oxygen. He then decided to climb out."

Eichelberger, who was buried for four hours, reached a nearby cabin across the lake at 9:30 p.m.

About 15 cabin occupants quickly responded. Wearing headlamps and using rakes, brooms and mops as probes, they dug out the other three.

A glove sticking out of the snow led them to Lerch, who was aching under the weight of the snow.

UC Berkeley student Malcolm Russell Hart, 21, of Dover, N.H., died of cardiac arrest after being dug out.

In Colorado, three men were skiing and snowboarding Saturday in the central Rockies when a avalanche engulfed them. Killed were Andrew P. Vork, 19, of Parker, Colo., Casey James McKenny, 19, of Marquette, Mich., and Matthew Alan Noddin, 22, of Portland, Maine.

In Utah, Justin Hiel, 22, was snowshoeing 10 miles south of Salt Lake City when he turned back to get warmer clothes. Hiel's friends saw an avalanche, and his body was found in a snow slide 20 feet deep.

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