JACKSON (WNE) – An Elko, Nevada, resident who died snowmobiling in a Salt River Range avalanche Friday suffocated after being buried inverted under the snow for an estimated 15 minutes.
Brandon Jones, 41, was snowmobiling away from his group late on Dec. 18 on a slope of what locals call “Suicide Mountain” when he triggered a medium-sized avalanche with a two-foot crown. He was able to deploy an airbag, which kept him near the snow surface with a leg sticking out.
“It’s horrible,” Lincoln County Coroner Dain Schwab said. “The balloon worked – it kept him up above. If someone would have seen it, he probably would have survived it, because they would have dug him out.”
When his snowmobiling partners did find and uncover him, he lacked a pulse, was blue in the face, wasn’t breathing and had foam at the mouth. The man who found Jones suspected he had broken his neck, and Schwab has ordered a CT scan to see if this contributed to the death. CPR was not administered, according to the coroner, who visited the scene the night of the accident.
Jones and his party were snowmobiling in the Sheep Pass area, roughly a dozen miles southeast of Afton at the far southern end of the Salt River Range.
The fatality marks the first lethal avalanche of the winter in Northwest Wyoming.
Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center Director Bob Comey visited the site on Sunday to investigate the slide path.
“We dug a snow pit near the site yesterday, and we feel confident that this was all the new snow that has fallen since Dec. 11,” Comey said. “The avalanche conditions are still dangerous up there. People should be careful.”