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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eastern Oregon avalanche victims identified

Steven Dubois Associated Press

PORTLAND – A backcountry ski guide and his client were identified Thursday as the people killed in an Eastern Oregon avalanche, while two of their rescued companions were recovering at a hospital after suffering broken bones and spending more than 24 hours stranded on a snowy slope.

Baker County Undersheriff Warren Thompson said the bodies of Shane Coulter, a 30-year-old aerospace engineer from Seattle, and Jake Merrill, a 23-year-old guide from Bellingham, remained on the mountain because the avalanche risk was too great for recovery teams.

The avalanche struck Tuesday as a party of six experienced skiers and two guides was on its third day of a five-day trek through the backcountry of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Preliminary information from the Wallowa Avalanche Center said the avalanche started about 440 feet from the top of the 8,640-foot Cornucopia Peak and traveled 1,200 feet. It took rescuers all day Wednesday to get the injured man and woman off the mountain amid heavy snow and poor visibility.

Thompson said the two were conscious before they were flown to St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla. The injured woman, Susan Polizzi, 60, of Wenatchee, suffered two broken legs and a broken arm, while the man, Bruno Bachinger, 40, of Snohomish, Wash., had a broken thigh bone.

The other four members of the party escaped injury and safely left the mountain.

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