CSAC Avalanche Incident

Pioneer Mountains, Montana - January 18, 1998

[Official Reports] [Media Reports] [Other Sources]

Official Reports

Media Reports

Associated Press Report

Sunday, a Butte man survived an avalanche in the Pioneer Mountains, 20 miles northeast of Elkhorn Hot Springs, Reeder said.

Douglas Zemljak, 30, was snowmobiling with three friends at noon, when their machines triggered a snow slide 3/8 of a mile wide, Reeder said.

"It was a huge avalanche, just gigantic," Reeder said. "The trail that the snowmobiles have been using was completely taken out."

Zemljak was the only one caught in the slide and friends saw where he disappeared. They were equipped with avalanche transceivers and shovels and Zemljak's hand was above the snow.

"They were right there, but even with that quick response, he's still very fortunate to have survived, said Reeder, who called conditions in the area "the most treacherous that I've ever seen."

The men used a cellular phone to call for help, and Zemljak was taken to a hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Reeder said several snowmobilers were "high marking" -- or running a snowmobile as high as possible and veering off just as the machine loses power -- on the slope where the avalanche occurred.

Beaverhead National Forest spokesman Jack de Golia said forest officials are concerned that some winter recreationists have a false sense of security just because they carry avalanche transceivers and shovels.

"We're worried that they are going into places where they shouldn't be going," he said.

Other Sources

From our online form: Time = 1145br Location = O'Dell Mountain, Pioneer Rangebr Elevation = 9500'br Aspect = NEbr Incline = 40br Type = Slabbr Width = 3\8 milebr Thickness = 3-4 feetbr Water = Drybr Avalanche Trigger = Snowmobile activitybr Activity = snowmobilingbr Party Size = 4br People Caught = 1br Complete Burials = 1br Injured = 1br Name 1 = Douglas Zemljakbr Transceiver 1 = 457br

Comments: Subject was rescued by his companions. They were equipped with transceivers and shovels. Snowmobile was wrapped around a tree and extensively damaged. Beaverhead Search and Rescue responed to area and assisted with evac. of the victim. Air Idaho Life Flight helicopter was used to transport from avalanche site to hospital were victim was evaluated and found to have broken ribs. Subject was buried, except for his hand that was visible to his companions.