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Hikers May Have Been Asleep In Tents Fatal Avalanche Not Large, But Hit In A Bad Location, Searcher Says

Associated Press

Three hikers found dead on Mount Index perished in their tents under an avalanche brought about by sudden, dramatic changes in the weather, searchers said.

It’s possible Timothy Skadan, Scott Bennett and Fred Petri were asleep when the snowslide occurred, said Snohomish County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Jorgensen.

Autopsies on Skadan, 31, of Bothell; Petri, 31, of Snohomish, and Bennett, 28, of Gold Bar were scheduled for today by the county medical examiner.

The bodies were recovered close to a trailhead parking lot near the Sunrise Mine, about 40 miles northeast of Seattle in the Cascade Mountains. The tents were buried under 5 feet to 6 feet of snow.

“I understand this wasn’t a very large slide,” said Jim Nelson, a professional climber who helped the hikers’ families search for the men.

“The men were just camped in the wrong place. It happened because of rapidly changing weather conditions.”

The men left for a hiking and camping trip near Lake Serene, at elevation 3,500 feet, on Dec. 27. They were reported missing when they didn’t return home Dec. 29 as planned.

Heavy snow in the area that weekend was followed by suddenly warming temperatures and rain.

The Snohomish County sheriff’s search-and-rescue team looked for the men until Jan. 1, but avalanche conditions and snow melt made the effort dangerous.

The sheriff’s office renewed its search again Wednesday with no success. But family members and friends continued to look for the men daily until Saturday when the snow had shifted enough to allow one of the tents to poke through.

“That area is, without question, one of the most rugged areas there is,” Nelson said. “The mountain itself is one of the most rugged peaks I know.”

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