Two Oregon skiers watched their friend being swept down a snow-covered volcanic cliff and died as a result of the fall, authorities said.
A search and rescue team from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched around 12:45 p.m. Wednesday with a report of an avalanche on Paulina Peak in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
The International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC) informed deputies that they had received an SOS alarm from a device and provided GPS coordinates for the location.
A second alert from the device indicated that there had been an avalanche and that CPR was being performed on a person who was not breathing.
The person caught in the avalanche was later identified as Erik Hefflefinger, 33, of Bend, Oregon.
According to friends and other skiers at the scene, they witnessed the avalanche from below and watched as debris from the avalanche carried Hefflefinger over a cliff, authorities said.
Hefflefinger was located by his friends, who were not buried by the avalanche, and life-saving efforts immediately began.
Snow conditions limited the arrival of some rescuers, but successful air rescue operations allowed crews to reach Hefflefinger some 3 hours after the avalanche.
Rescue measures were carried out after discovering his weak pulse. However, the man succumbed to his injuries.
As a result of the investigation, deputies said the victim possibly struck a tree while trapped in avalanche debris.
Hefflefinger’s death was not the first of the year in Deschutes County. Two previous avalanche deaths have been under investigation since January, agents said. Before these tragedies, it had been 9 years since there had been a fatality caused by an avalanche.
The summit of Paulina Peak, with an elevation of 7,984 feet, is the highest point on Newberry Volcano, according to the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
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