Blaine County Identifies Snowmobiler Killed In Idaho Avalanche

Feb 17, 2014

This map shows current avalanche conditions in southern Idaho, western Montana and northern Utah.
Credit Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center

An avalanche in the Sawtooth National Forest killed one man and injured a woman Sunday afternoon at a popular snowmobile site in the Smiley Creek area north of Ketchum. The avalanche west of Galena Summit buried four snowmobilers early in the afternoon.

The Blaine County Sheriff's Office says 64-year-old George Gilbert Martin Jr. of Bellevue, Idaho died on the scene.

Sawtooth Avalanche Center director Simon Trautman says the four snowmobilers were in a meadow which they thought was safe.

"They got off their sleds, they were talking, and they remotely triggered a fairly large avalanche and all four of them were buried," says Trautman.

The avalanche was two-to-four feet deep. Trautman says it's a miracle the other three survived.

Susan Swanton, 56, and Robert Swanton, 65, of Sutherlin, Oregon were able to free themselves from the snow.

“One man [Swanton] was able to extricate himself from the debris. He then was able to dig out a woman next to him," Trautman says.

The Swantons then searched for Martin and 70-year-old Bellevue resident Lesley Martin.

"They went out for help. Three locals came in and were able to rescue the third woman," says Trautman. "She was buried for quite some time, at least an hour-and-a-half, and she survived.”

Leslie Martin was taken to the hospital with injuries and signs of hypothermia. The Blaine County Sheriff's Office says Martin arrived at St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center in stable condition.

On Sunday, the avalanche danger in this region of the Sawtooth Mountains was “high” at upper elevations and “considerable” down below.  Trautman says that means avalanches are very likely.

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