Man killed in Hatcher Pass slide

Posted: Monday, February 10, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A Wasilla man is dead after an avalanche Sunday afternoon in Hatcher Pass.

Anthony Watters, 24, and an 18-year-old friend had just completed a snowboarding run off Hatch Peak, above the pass to Willow, when a slide released at about 1 p.m., according to Alaska State Troopers and the state park ranger who handled the rescue.

Almost two hours later, rescuers dug Watters from the snow. He was dead at the scene, Alaska's first avalanche fatality of the year.

About 24 inches of heavy, wet snow fell in Hatcher Pass in the past six days, ranger Pat Murphy said.

Watters was buried. He had a shovel and an avalanche probe in his backpack, Murphy said. Watters also had an avalanche beacon, a device that transmits a signal to other beacons to help rescuers find buried victims.

But the 18-year-old had no beacon to receive the signal, Murphy said. He also did not have a shovel or a probe, Murphy said.

The 18-year-old friend was buried to his chest and managed to dig himself free. He was not injured. He scanned the debris field looking for his friend before hiking out of the area for help. He ran into a group of four skiers. Two went down with the 18-year-old for help, Murphy said. Two continued up to the avalanche zone.

Murphy happened to be at Hatcher Pass Lodge with another ranger and three snowmachines. The rangers, the 18-year-old and several volunteers went up to the slide area.

By the time they arrived, the two skiers had picked up Watters' signal on their beacons. Within minutes they located him with a probe. His feet were buried 3 feet deep. His head was 5 feet deep, Murphy said.

More than 90 minutes after the avalanche, the rescuers pulled Watters free. They administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 20 minutes without success.

''There were a lot of other clues about the danger. There were lots of big slides visible from the road. We also just had a big snow with heavy wind,'' Murphy said.

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