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Snowmobiler killed in avalanche

by Emil Whitis
| December 31, 2010 8:00 PM

The body of a 35-year-old Farmington, Wash., man was found under 9 feet of snow Wednesday, 10 hours after the search began.

The man, identified as Shane St. John, was killed about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in an avalanche on Mastadon Road about 20 miles northeast of Calder.

St. John and his friend had been riding snowmobiles on the logging road for about an hour when the friend noticed St. John was no longer behind him.

The man backtracked and discovered the avalanche and tracks leading into, but not out of the fray. He immediately began searching for St. John but after two hours sought help.

The Shoshone County Sheriff's Office, in cooperation with Forest Service Law Enforcement, St. Joe Valley Search and Rescue and the St. Joe Snow Riders, responded to the scene. Searchers were led to the body by an avalanche beacon St. John was wearing.

Avalanche conditions in the high country were considered "very extreme" due to the four to five feet of powder which fell on the hard pack of snow, said a sheriff's department spokesman.

Sheriff Mitch Alexander reiterated the warning to all people contemplating backcountry adventures in the near future.

"People recreating in the backcountry need to understand we're in extreme avalanche danger, need to be very careful with what they do," said Alexander. "These guys were prepared - they had (beacons), but he was buried under nine feet of snow."

This most recent fatality marks the fourth avalanche-related death in Shoshone County since 2004. The other three were all backcountry skiers.

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