State troops have confirmed that three hikers have died after an avalanche in Alaska’s Bear Mountains.
The bodies of 54-year-old Thomas Devine from nearby Chugiak, 43-year-old Matthew Nyman from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and 50-year-old Edward Watson from Miami were recovered Wednesday.
The men were reported missing after failing to return from a hike in the Bear Mountains region. Bear Mountain is located in Chugach State Park near Mirror Lake and Peters Creek.
The group set off at around 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning and was scheduled to return around 5:00 p.m. that afternoon. If this was not the case, the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center was alerted.
On Wednesday morning, soldiers and the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group began to search the area on foot and recently found an avalanche.
The Alaska State Troopers said, “In the avalanche slide area, the bodies of the three hikers were found buried in the snow.”
They added that the men did not carry personal location beacons that send a signal that makes it easier for people to find them in an emergency.
The avalanche occurred in Chugach State Park, Alaska
Carol M. Highsmith / Buyenlarge / Getty Images
Friends of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, a non-profit organization in south-central Alaska, wrote in a statement on Facebook: “It is with a very heavy heart that we learned today that three hikers yesterday in an avalanche on Bear Mountain near Chugiak lost their lives.
“Little information is known at the moment. Our deepest condolences go to the family and friends of the hiker.”
The last avalanche death in Chugach State Park occurred in April 2011. According to a report by the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, the man killed was an Anchorage West High School teacher who sledged in the area.
Alaska has a high per capita avalanche death rate, said the Alaska Avalanche Information Center. Various factors can affect the likelihood of an avalanche, including weather, temperature, slope steepness, whether the slope is facing north or south, wind direction and terrain.
Avalanches occur when the snow load is so great that it can no longer “cling” to a sloping mountain slope. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources states that the danger is greatest after a storm has left a fresh load of snow or strong winds overload the slopes.
Last January, two skiers died after an avalanche in a ski resort caught them on a mountain in Idaho. Five other skiers were rescued. The avalanche occurred on Wardner Peak, a 6,200 foot mountain near the Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg.