MOUNT HOOD, Ore. (AP/CBS4) – A dozen rescuers armed with chainsaws and other tools chipped away at tons of ice and snow Sunday to the recover the body of a 25-year-old snowboarder killed when an ice tunnel collapsed on Oregon’s Mount Hood.
The snowboarder, Collin Backowski, of Pine Junction, Colo., was traveling with five companions when the collapse hit Saturday afternoon. The others tried to dig him out but could not break through the ice and snow, which an official described as being as thick as concrete.
“The one person that was trapped was 30 or 40 feet ahead of the rest of the group when the ice gave way and fell on top of him,” Hood River County Sgt. Pete Hughes said.
Rescuers quickly responded but halted efforts about 11 p.m. Saturday, then resumed early Sunday morning. They called it one of the most difficult recoveries they’ve every attempted there.
Hood River Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Tiffany Peterson said that after removing tons of debris by hand, searchers found Backowski where he had been buried by 8 to 10 feet of snow and ice.
None of the searchers or other snowboarders were injured, Peterson said.
The ice tunnel was on the White River Glacier, which begins about 6,000 feet up the south side of the mountain.
An airplane was dispatched to survey the area, along with crews from local sheriff’s offices.
Seven rescuers, including five members of an all-volunteer group called the CragRats, were on the mountain on Saturday night.
Companions took pictures of the area just before the tunnel collapsed, giving searchers a better idea of where to look.
Warm temperatures made snow on the mountain slushier and more easily sloughed off the surface, adding to the challenge of attempting to reach the snowboarder.
The group Backowski was with was hoping to shoot extreme snowboarding videos. Grant Giller was supposed to be with them on what had planned to be a difficult day on Mt. Hood.
“There were some deep crevasses; they were planning on jumping over them,” Giller said.
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