Woman dead, man missing after avalanches hit Washington state

Reuters News

4/14/2013 8:56:17 PM - Reuters News

By Elaine Porterfield

SEATTLE, Washington (Reuters) - A woman died and a man was missing and presumed dead after two avalanches struck mountains in Washington state at the weekend, authorities said on Sunday.

The avalanches struck within a few miles of each other at noon on Saturday in an area popular for winter sports about an hour east of Seattle. Both victims were snowshoeing when hit, officers at the King County Sheriff's Office said.

The conditions were extreme enough on Sunday that rescuers were forced to call off the search for a 60-year-old man, who was swept away with two companions near Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountains,

The companions suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the 50-mph avalanche, which ran for more than a quarter mile, the sheriff's office said.

King County Sheriff's Sergeant Cindy West said she had few details about the missing man except that he was an experienced outdoorsman.

In the other incident, near the Alpental Ski Area, a woman who later died was buried under six feet of snow for about 45 minutes, the sheriff's office said.

The woman, who has not been publicly identified, was alive but suffering from hypothermia and other possible injuries when rescuers arrived the scene more than two hours later. Near white-out conditions prevented the use of a helicopter, and rescuers were forced to bring the woman out by sled, the sheriff's office said.

The woman was declared dead at around midnight. The King County Medical Examiner's office has yet to announce the exact cause of death.

Another snowshoer from the group suffered hypothermia and was helped off the mountain by rescuers, authorities said.

(Editing by Edith Honan and David Brunnstrom)