04-06-2006, 10:59 PM #1
Mammoth Lakes: 3 ski patrollers killed
MAMMOTH LAKES, California (AP) -- Three members of a ski patrol team died Thursday when they fell into a volcanic fissure at the Mammoth Mountain resort, officials said.
Whether they were killed by the 21-foot fall or were also affected by gases seeping from the cavity was not immediately clear.
The victims were part of a four-man team inspecting the mountain after heavy snowstorms and fencing off the gap in the rock, officials said.
The role that gas might have played in the three deaths was uncertain, but the mayor said a police detective told him that "the level of carbon monoxide inside this cavity was extremely high."
None of the victims' names were immediately released.
The mountain, about a six-hour drive north of Los Angeles, is popular with skiers from Southern California. The peak towers over a dramatic landscape in a volcanically active region.
04-08-2006, 02:08 AM #2
Update 14: Coroner Says 3 Skiers Likely Asphyxiated
By BRENDAN RILEY , 04.07.2006, 07:48 PM
Two ski patrol members who fell to their deaths in a volcanic fissure were probably asphyxiated by poisonous gas spewing from the vent, along with a third member who tried to rescue the pair, a coroner said Friday.
After they fell, the first two men could be heard calling for help "and then were silent within a minute or two," said Rusty Gregory, chief executive officer of the ski area on Mammoth Mountain, an 11,053-foot dormant volcano 190 miles east of San Francisco.
Mono County Coroner Ralph Obenberger said all three men were asphyxiated by carbon dioxide gas. Autopsies were pending.The vent releases volcanic gas from deep within the Earth. It is normally surrounded by a plastic fence to keep skiers away, but the fence had been nearly buried by a record 52 feet of snow. The ski patrol went to the site to raise the fence before opening the area.
The snow under the team collapsed, causing two patrol members to fall 21 feet to the rocky bottom of the 6-foot-diameter hole.
One of the dead was a patrol member who died trying to reach the other two. Another patrolman who followed was saved by a colleague who held his breath, jumped in and attached a rescue rope, Gregory said.
The dead were identified as John "Scott" McAndrews, 37, who had been on the patrol one year; James Juarez, 35; a five-year patrol veteran; and Charles Walter Rosenthal, 58, a university researcher and snow expert who had been with the patrol since 1972.
Rosenthal went in first carrying oxygen, trying to get to the others "without regard for his life, probably knowing more than the others about the dangers," Gregory said.
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