One Person Dies Following Blaine County Avalanche


By Paul Johnson

Smiley Creek Area, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KTWT-TV ) - One person has died following an avalanche 36 miles north of Ketchum. The Blaine County Sheriff Department say the incident was reported at 3:16 pm Sunday afternoon to the Blaine County Emergency Communications Center. The rescue area was around Frenchman’s creek near the Salmon River head water in the Smiley Creek area.

Workers from Ketchum, Hailey and Sun Valley Fire Departments, the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office and the Blaine County Search and Rescue were dispatched to the scene.

Initial reports indicated that four snow mobile riders had been buried in a meadow by a natural made avalanche. However, upon further investigation the Sawtooth Avalanche Center has reported that the meadow was actually a natural avalanche pass and it appears that the fracture initiated when one of the victims stepped through the new snow slab and penetrated the old faceted layer at the ground. This caused a large collapse that propagated uphill and released the avalanche 9000 feet in elevation in the uppermost part of the path. The avalanche ran 1400 vertical feet. The debris was approximately 4-8 feet deep and 300-400 feet wide. It has been categorized as a size D3 avalanche which by definition can bury and destroy a car, damage a truck, destroy a wood frame house or break trees.

According to witnesses, at approximately 2:05 p.m. the avalanche broke from the top of the ridge and ran down the hill, across the meadow hitting and burying all four of them. Susan A. Swanton, age 56, and Robert C. Swanton, age 65, of Sutherlin, Oregon were able to extricate themselves from the avalanche and began searching for the other two snow machine riders. George Gilbert Martin, Jr., age 64 of Bellevue, Idaho was recovered first. Unable to locate a beacon signal for Lesley Dianne Martin, age 70 also of Bellevue, Idaho, Susan and Robert Swanton quickly rode the one unburied snowmobile to the highway where they flagged down assistance. Three other snowmobilers summoned by Robert and Susan were able to locate Lesley Martin using her beacon and assist in extricating her from the avalanche. Lesley Martin was transported to St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center by Ketchum Fire Department for hypothermic symptoms were was admitted in stable condition.

CPR was performed on George Gilbert Martin but they were not able to revive him. Martin was pronounced dead at the scene of the avalanche and his body was recovered by Blaine County Search and Rescue,

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