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Weather conditions delaying probe into fatal Flathead avalanche

Swan Fatal Avalanche Map
Posted at 4:54 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 18:55:02-05

KALISPELL — We are learning more information about the avalanche that killed a snowmobiler over the weekend in the Swan Mountain Range.

Those backcountry conditions not only hampered recovery efforts but are preventing officials from investigating the incident.

Flathead Avalanche Center officials say a fatal avalanche that occurred in the Swan Mountain Range on Saturday was triggered by a snowmobiler in Wounded Buck Creek, north of Wildcat Lake.

The Flathead County Sheriff’s office has identified 59-year-old David Cano of Kalispell as the victim.

Cano was carried and buried in the avalanche while three other members of the party were also caught and partially buried.

After extricating themselves, the three other members of the party searched for Cano up the slope where they found part of his backpack visible in the debris. Despite resuscitation efforts, Cano did not survive.

Flathead Avalanche Center Director Blase Reardon says bad weather and dangerous avalanche conditions prevented law enforcement from recovering Cano’s body until early Sunday morning via helicopter.

Due to dangerous conditions, Reardon says his team won’t be able to travel into the avalanche site to investigate the terrain until later this week.

“Right now, conditions are too dangerous for us to travel into that terrain and look at the site,” Reardon explained.

“We try to usually be onsite the day after but right now that just doesn’t seem like a wise move so, we’re going to wait and try to get in there later in the week,” Reardon added.

Reardon says an avalanche warning for the Swan, Whitefish and Flathead Mountain ranges has been extended through Tuesday morning.

He says severe arctic cold this week only makes conditions that much more dangerous.

“The cold that we’re dealing with right now is going to compound any accident, it’s going to make the urgency for getting rescued increase, and the difficulty of surviving until organized rescue gets there is going to be harder,” Reardon told MTN News.

Reardon says those venturing off into the backcountry should check the Flathead avalanche center’s website daily for forecast updates.

He also noted that 15 people were killed in avalanches in the U.S last week, the highest nation-wide seven-day total since 1910.