The first avalanche fatality in Summit County of the season occurred over the weekend. Now the friend of the man killed is speaking out about his experience.
49-year-old Jason Lyman of Mona, Utah was snowmobiling in the Uintah’s last weekend with his friend Shannon Marchbanks and Marchbank’s 14-year-old son when tragedy struck. Marchbank told the Utah Avalanche Center in a video about the moment the slide happened.
“It broke hundreds of yard above him and it broke hundreds of yard each side and it was huge. You’re trying to watch your buddy because that’s what you’re supposed to do and you think you’re fair enough that if it sluffs off you’re going to be fine and it wasn’t the case.”
Marchbanks and his son was able to escape the slide approaching them and then began to search for Lyman.
“It probably took 15 minutes before I finally got a signal. Then when we dig, and we get down. I’ll tell you that I went out that day and I have a probe and I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t find it for the past two weeks and I just thought we’re not going to be in the hills I don’t need to bring my probe. I’ll tell ya, it kills me.”
Two other riders came by who had a probe and were able to find Lyman in a few minutes and dig him out in about five minutes or so. Lyman was flown by a helicopter to a hospital in Evanston where he died. Marchbanks addressed his fellow snowmobilers.
“None of us are an exception. I get to get home, my son gets get to go home, he’s not going home. He’s dead. There’s no (going) back. I’m on the phone, I’m warm, I’m with my family, I’m with my kids and she called me and said what happened? I had to tell her. Then she has to go up to Evanston because she wants to see her husband. It’s not fair. My wife gets me, my kids get me. His doesn’t.”
You can find a link to the full video interview here. Lyman was the first avalanche fatality of the season in the Wasatch back. Two other snowmobilers and one skier have died in Utah due to avalanches this season. One other Utah man died while snowmobiling in Bonneville County, Idaho this year. Craig Gordon of the Utah Avalanche Center spoke about the fatalities so far in Utah this season.
“The folks that were involved either had no avalanche rescue gear or didn’t have the full compliment. Maybe in some cases that could have really made a difference at the end of the day.”
Gordon emphasized that the first step every back-country enthusiast should take is to avoidance of dangerous areas.
“Avoidance is the ticket. Then if we do happen to make a mistake, we’re caught and carried in an avalanche not only do we need experienced partners but everybody in our group needs to wear and know how to use an avalanche beacon, a shovel and a probe. Those three items are just basics, ABC’s. Along with that again check the local avalanche advisory. Know the kind of avalanche dragon you’re dealing with avoid that. Any avalanche that’s triggered right now and especially as we get into this next storm cycle is going to be deep it’s going to break wide. We’re seeing timber snapping avalanches. In that case the only way we manage that is through avoidance. We’ve got to remember it is a long ski season. I guarantee you if we practice a little patience the payoff will be remarkable because we will have some really wonderful powder filled days.”
You can find up to date avalanche forecasts here.