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Wyo. backcountry avalanche kills 1, injures 2 others

Grand Teton National Park rangers and SAR personnel rescue four backcountry ski mountaineers after avalanche


A helicopter heads toward Garnet Canyon in this file photo from April 2011 taken during a search for two lost skiers in Grand Teton National Park.

Image National Park Service

JACKSON, Wyo. — Four backcountry ski mountaineers were swept 500 feet down rock and ice-covered terrain by an avalanche on the northeast face of Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park on Sunday. The avalanche killed Luke Lynch, 38, of Jackson, Wyo. Stephen P. Adamson, Jr., 42, sustained life-threatening injuries, prompting evacuation by helicopter, according to a National Park Service press release.

Two other mountaineers were in the group. Brook Yeomans, 37, sustained minor injuries and Zahan Billimoria, 37, escaped injury. Both were also evacuated by helicopter as continuing avalanche activity and a steady cycle of snow squalls across the Tetons made the multi-staged rescue operation more challenging. All three survivors are residents of Jackson, Wyo.

The response and rescue was conducted by a team of Grand Teton National Park rangers, emergency medical personnel, Teton County Search and Rescue (SAR) team members and a contract helicopter. Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a 911 transfer call from Teton County at 9:30 a.m. and quickly contacted park rangers who immediately initiated a coordinated rescue operation.

Because of the remote location on Mount Moran — and the report of multiple injured — park rangers quickly staged at, and responded from, the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache located at Lupine Meadows near the base of Teewinot Mountain. Rangers also summoned the Teton County SAR contract helicopter.

The four ski mountaineers were ascending the steep Sickle Couloir on Mount Moran when a shallow wet slough avalanche released from above. The snowslide swept three of the mountaineers downslope.

Billimoria was able to move out of the heavier portion of the debris flow and was not caught in the slide. He quickly descended to his teammates, called 911, and began administering aid to his three companions. Light snowfall on the slopes above continued to cause additional sloughs that repeatedly hit the group, requiring Billimoria to work desperately to move Adamson and Lynch to a safer location. Although injured, Yeomans was able to descend slowly downslope under his own power.

After a slight lull in the recurring snowstorms over the Teton peaks, the Teton County SAR helicopter was able to deliver rescuers to the base of the couloir. A Teton County SAR member was short-hauled to the scene to aid in the evacuation of Adamson, who was receiving emergency care by park rangers on site and getting packaged for airlift from the mountain.

Adamson and the Teton County SAR member were both short-hauled directly to the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache where a team of medics and the park’s medical director, Dr. Will Smith, provided additional emergency care before Adamson was transported by park ambulance to the Jackson Hole Airport. Upon reaching the airport, Adamson was transferred to a fixed wing air ambulance that flew him to the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The Teton County SAR helicopter subsequently returned to pick up the two other avalanche survivors and transport them out of the backcountry. Additional flights were made to bring out Lynch’s body, as well as the remaining park rangers and their rescue gear. All rescue personnel were safely out of the mountains by 3 p.m.