UPDATE: Anchorage snowmachiner killed in avalanche, authorities say

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - May 3, 5:30 p.m. Update:

Investigators with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center were unable to reach the avalanche site Thursday, due to its remote location and weather conditions.

Forecaster Wendy Wagner says the team will be relying on information and photographs from witnesses to conduct the investigation. So far details on the size and cause of the avalanche are limited but a preliminary report is expected to be released Thursday evening or Friday morning.

“This area is fairly remote and it is outside of our forecast zone so we do not have a lot of information for the zone but we do know that there was a lot of weather and snowfall in the area for the last couple weeks of April,” Wagner said.

Friends and family members of the deceased snowmachiner took to social media Thursday to express their condolences. Christman is described as an avid hunter, angler, hiker and a good friend. A GoFundMe page has raised a few thousand dollars to support his family.

May 3, 8 a.m. Update:

Authorities who responded to the tragic avalanche at Blackstone Glacier have confirmed that the individual buried in the ice and snow perished after being transported.

Megan Peters, a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers who were involved in the response, said that Chad Christman, 41, of Anchorage, was killed.

Christman was one of several riders who encountered the avalanche Wednesday afternoon, though the other riders were uninjured.

Andy Ballou, a snowmachiner who arrived in the area shortly after the avalanche told Channel 2 that the area that caught the snowmachiners was a "terrain trap," or a natural structure which could be dangerous to get out of in a slide or avalanche.

"It's all dangerous up there, you know. You have to be careful of the terrain and have an escape route always," Ballou said. He explained that the area was a "natural half pipe shape" and that it looked like the snow funneled the riders into a ravine.

Wendy Wagner, director of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center, said that the cause of Wednesday's avalanche is still unknown at this time.

She said they expect a preliminary report on the event to be issued either Thursday or Friday, with avalanche experts currently underway with their investigation.

Wagner said that most avalanches are categorized into two separate categories - those naturally occurring primarily due to weather, and those caused by humans or animals.

"It has been proven that you can't trigger an avalanche by sound," Wagner said. "It has to do with weight in particular on snow pack, and how that weight and pressure becomes displaced by either naturally occurring conditions, or weight and pressure from humans or sometimes animals."

The preliminary report will aim to categorize which avalanche falls into, how large it was, and other initial information.

A more thorough, final report will be issued sometime later. Right now, however, Wagner said that the avalanche's cause has not been determined.

May 2, Original Story:

A group of six snowmachiners riding at Blackstone Glacier were swept up into an avalanche early Wednesday evening according to a spokesperson with the Alaska National Guard.

Five of the riders were uninjured, but one person was buried in the avalanche. Alaska State Troopers contacted the Rescue Coordination Center for assistance, and requested support from Alaska Air National Guard rescue squadrons.

National Guard crews departed JBER around 5:00 p.m. When they arrived at Blackstone Glacier, a landing area had been stamped into the snow by the snowmachine group.

By the time crews arrived, CPR was reportedly being administered to one person, who was taken to Providence Medical Center at 6:30 p.m.

That persons condition is not currently known.

(This is a developing story. Check KTUU.com and Channel 2 News for updates)


Avalanche photo courtesy Andy Ballou.
Avalanche photo courtesy Andy Ballou.


 
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