Tree Well Warnings After Deaths on Mt Bachelor

How to Avoid Dangerous Situations on the Mountain

Mt. Bachelor officials say they are putting a priority on warning skiers and snowboarders about the dangers of tree wells after the deaths of two people in separate incidents on the mountain last Friday. 
Central Oregon Daily’s Anyssa Bohanan takes a closer look at the accidents that claimed the lives of two young Oregonians.

Mt. Bachelor officials, as well as those who have experienced being trapped in a tree well, say that one of the safest things that you can do to avoid dangerous situations on the mountain is to have someone skiing or snowboarding with you, especially is you are making a run near the trees.

Tree Wells Cause Two Deaths at Mt. Bachelor

MT. BACHELOR OFFICIALS CONFIRM TWO DEATHS IN ONE DAY

On Friday a female skier was found in tree well just hours after the death of male snowboarder, also found in a tree well. Mt Bachelor officials issued this press release at 12:23am on Saturday morning:

“Following the death of an adult male snowboarder on Friday, a second guest fatality has occurred at Mt. Bachelor.

At approximately 3:30 p.m. Friday, Mt. Bachelor ski patrol received a report of a missing adult female skier who had become separated from her friends.

Mt. Bachelor ski patrol launched a search with Deschutes County Search and Rescue (SAR) and after several hours of searching, crews located the missing skier at approximately 8:30 p.m. Friday evening in a tree well near the more-difficult White Bark run in the vicinity of the Cloudchaser lift. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

In a separate incident earlier Friday, at approximately 12:00 p.m., an adult male snowboarder was discovered in a tree well in the West Bowls, an experts-only area near the Northwest lift.

Ski patrol members arrived and performed CPR while transporting the snowboarder to the West Village base area. He was transferred to the care of local emergency response personnel, who pronounced him dead at 1:14 p.m.

Members of the Mt. Bachelor ski patrol and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office are investigating both incidents.” 

“Our entire mountain community is shocked and saddened,” said John McLeod, Mt. Bachelor’s president and general manager, in the press release. “To have two unrelated incidents in the same day is unthinkable. We are heartbroken and our deepest condolences go out to the affected families and friends.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office later confirmed the identities of both the skier and snowboarder. The snowboarder was identified as 24-year-old Bend resident Alfonso Braun.

Search and Rescue personnel said Braun was found buried in about six feet of snow around noon on Friday in the West Bowls, an expert-only area off of the Northwest chairlift. After repeated attempts at CPR, emergency medical personnel pronounced Braun dead at the West Village parking lot.

The full release from the Sheriff’s Office, released at 12:47am is below:

“At approximately 12:00pm today, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue personnel were dispatched to Mt. Bachelor for a report of a snowboarder found buried in the snow. Other skiers in the area began working to uncover the snowboarder, who was found to be unconscious and not breathing. Mt Bachelor Ski Patrol members arrived and began performing CPR while transporting the snowboarder to the West Village parking lot. The snowboarder, 24 year old Alfonso Braun of Bend, was pronounced deceased once being transferred into the care of awaiting emergency medical personnel.

Alfonso was found in the West Bowls, which is an expert-only area off of the Northwest chairlift. Weather at the time was reported to be mostly cloudy with light snow showers. Snow conditions at the time consisted of “unconsolidated powder”.

An investigation at the scene determined Braun had separated from his friends, snowboarding into a treed area. Braun snowboarded into a tree well, becoming buried in approximately six feet of snow, head first, where he was later found. Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Detectives with the assistance of the Medical Examiner’s Office are further investigating this accident.”

The Sheriff’s Office also released the name of the skier found Friday. The skier was identified as 19-year-old Eugene resident Nicole Panet-Raymond.

Search and Rescue personnel said Panet-Raymond became separated from her friends around 3:30pm on Friday afternoon, and five hours later around 8:30pm, she was found in a tree well in the more-difficult White Bark run near the Cloudchaser lift. Panet-Raymond was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The full press release from the Sheriff’s Office, which was released at 1:02am on Saturday, is below:

“On March 2nd, 2018, at approximately 3:30 p.m., Mt. Bachelor ski patrol received a report of a missing adult female skier who had become separated from her friends.

Mt. Bachelor ski patrol launched a search with Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue and after several hours of searching, crews located the missing skier, 19 year old Nicole Panet-Raymond, at approximately 8:30 p.m. Nicole was located in a tree well near the more-difficult White Bark run in the vicinity of the Cloudchaser lift. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Cell phone forensics were utilized in assisting searchers to locate Nicole. She was found buried in approximately six feet of snow, approximately 10 yards off of the White Bark run.”

Fatalities at ski areas resulting from falls into tree wells are fairly uncommon and McLeod said it was “exceptionally rare” for two unrelated incidents to occur in the same day at one ski area. Prior to Friday’s incidents, the last tree well fatality at Mt. Bachelor occurred in 2002.

Tree wells are an area of loose snow at the base of trees that pose a risk to skiers, snowboarders, hikers and snowshoers. The wells are often invisible from the surface but falling into one could cause injury or death due to suffocation.

Those participating in winter activities should be aware of the danger and avoid trees, since they mark tree wells, and always go out with a partner and maintain visual contact.

 

 

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