Lake Dinah Avalanche Victims Identified – Both from Anaconda
The two men who were killed after being buried by an avalanche on Wednesday afternoon near Lake Dinah have been identified by the Missoula County Coroner in the case, Captain Bill Burt.
24 year-old Jade Green and 26 year-old Lowell Grosvold were snowmobiling with a third unidentified man when a sudden avalanche buried them under several feet of snow.
Burt spoke with reporters in the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office about the avalanche and the recovery efforts by Search and Rescue personnel and other snowmobilers in the area.
Burt said the deaths have shaken his understanding of why avalanches occur.
“This whole thing has shaken the foundation of my belief system about avalanches,” said Burt. “I’ve recreated in this area on dozens of occasions and it’s not an area you’d expect to have a slide. There are lots of anchor points like trees and big rock outcroppings. This wasn’t a situation where people were playing on a hillside not aware of the dangers. I think this really caught all three of them off guard.”
Burt described how the victims were found at the avalanche site.
“All three riders did get caught in the avalanche,” he said. “One of them was on the surface and was able to free himself, which was very lucky. He was able to find one of the victims relatively quickly using the avalanche beacon, but the third rider wasn’t wearing a beacon and he was eventually located using avalanche probes. Unfortunately in both cases, by the time they were able to excavate the snow and pull them out, both of them were deceased.”
Burt described the response to the avalanche site.
“There were some experienced snowmobilers who responded to the site just after it occurred at about 2:15 p.m.,” he said. “The Search and Rescue teams that were called from both Seeley and Missoula took quite a bit of time to get there and get our equipment together, so by the time we got to the scene it was getting dark. The search for the victims took place during the daylight hours however the removal of the people that perished in this incident and the equipment was difficult because of the howling winds and the drifting snow. You really can’t follow tracks in and out because of the winds and drifting snow because they disappear within minutes.”
Burt praised the heroics of the volunteer Search and Rescue teams both from Missoula and from Seeley Lake.
“The Search and Rescue volunteers are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever come across, because they all have their regular jobs, but when the pagers go off anytime of the day or night just how many people respond. Montana is a huge place, and to have committed people that are willing to come out and train on their own time, spend their own money on equipment and have the expertise to come out and assist the Sheriff’s Office, we simply would not be able to do it without them.”
Burt said all three men were experienced snowmobilers and were the victims of a tragic accident in terrain not known for avalanches. He provided advice for those who enjoy snowmobiling in the back country.
“Make sure you’re wearing your beacons,” he said. “Make sure you have all the right equipment and know how to use it and don’t bunch up while you're riding. These three were doing all the right things, but this tragic accident still occurred.”
Both victims were transported to the Montana State Crime Lab in Missoula.