Snowmachiner dies in Blackstone Glacier avalanche
One snowmachiner is dead after a group of riders was caught in an avalanche at Blackstone Glacier near Whittier, according to authorities.
Chad Christman, 41, of Anchorage, was pronounced dead Wednesday evening after an Alaska Air National Guard rescue crew dug him out of the avalanche, according to Alaska State Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters. Troopers were first notified of the avalanche at about 3:40 p.m. Wednesday.
"Two people reported that they witnessed their friend (Christman) get covered by an avalanche while they were on snowmachines in the area," troopers wrote in a dispatch Thursday morning. "When the avalanche stopped, Christman was only partially buried. The two men and other people in the area were able to dig Christman out."
A group of at least 16 snowmachiners, including Christman, were at Blackstone Glacier when the avalanche happened near the glacier about three miles south of Whittier, said Guard spokesperson Lt. Col Candis Olmstead.
Half a dozen members of the party were caught in the slide. Five were okay, but Christman had to be dug out.
"When they arrived at Blackstone Glacier, at 4,800 ft. elevation, a landing area for the helicopter had been stamped into the snow by the snowmachine group. It is my understanding that CPR was being administered to the individual as the rescue crews arrived."
Christman was taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center at 6:30 p.m., Olmstead said, but troopers said he "did not survive the incident."
Wendy Wagner, a forecaster with the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, said forecasters were trying to interview survivors and reach the scene of the slide Thursday.
“It’s off the beaten path,” Wagner said. “As far as our avalanche center is concerned, it’s a peripheral area, but it does get some recreational use.”
The Blackstone Glacier region is outside the forecast area for the avalanche center, which closed for the season at the end of April. In general, Wagner said, the second half of April saw stormy conditions in the area that left potential avalanche conditions at higher elevations.
“We don’t have any particular information for that snowpack, other than that it was stormy and it was snowing for some time previous to the accident,” Wagner said.
According to avalanche.org, this is the third avalanche-related death in Alaska this season, but the first involving a snowmachiner.
Chris Klint contributed information to this story.
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