Carothers was snowmobiling with three other people when the accident occurred at about 10:30 a.m. on March 3. Two snowmobilers in the party rode across a large clearing near Beaver Basin before the avalanche hit, but they noticed “snow dust” coming down the avalanche path as the third rider came through the area. That rider safely reached the first two, but as Carothers crested a steep hill and began to cross the clearing he was caught in the wall of snow and swept into a steep gully where he was buried in about 12 feet of snow, according to a report by Utah Avalanche Center forecaster Max Forgensi.
Using a probe and shovels they had brought with them, the group searched for Carothers for about an hour and 45 minutes before snowmobiling back toward Gateway, Colo. to find cell phone service.
“They called a friend in Colorado who called us,” Neal said, adding that the sheriff’s office received notification of the incident at 1:43 p.m. on Saturday.
A team of Grand County Search and Rescue members was flown to the site by helicopter and quickly began using probes to search areas along the bench and the ravine where it was believed that Carothers, who was not carrying a rescue beacon, was likely buried. As evening neared, a searcher who was probing in the bottom of the hole that had been dug by the snowmobiling group made a “positive strike,” and the search party began digging in the area. The cowling of the snowmobile was uncovered just before dark and the search was called off for the night.
The following morning, a group of searchers that included search and rescue workers from Mesa County, Colo., and Grand County finished digging out the snowmobile. Carothers’ body was found at approximately 12:25 p.m., about three feet away from the vehicle, and by 2 p.m. the body was evacuated from the area, sheriff’s department officials said.
Search and rescue workers moved about one metric ton of snow and avalanche debris in the course of the search, according to Forgensi. The avalanche path covered almost one square mile.
Carothers’ death marks the fifth avalanche fatality in Utah since November and the fourth since Jan. 28. As of Sunday night, 28 avalanches were reported last weekend to the Utah Avalanche Center in areas stretching from northern Utah to Moab, but no other serious injuries or fatalities occurred.
Forgensi said the incident is the second known avalanche likely triggered by a snowmobile in the La Sals this season, but the first incident was not reported until this week.
“Both occurred on summer roads with avalanche terrain above them,” Forgensi said. “Just because there’s a summer road or trail in the mountains does not make it safe to cross.”
He said that mountain roads that are accessible in the summer but closed in winter often cross through potential avalanche areas, so winter recreationists should always take extreme precautions when traveling in those areas.
With more snow forecast for the area and across the state, the avalanche danger for the La Sals and other mountains throughout Utah is listed as “considerable,” Forgensi said Wednesday morning.
“And [the danger rating] is going to stick there for now,” he said.