Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: Alaska Mountain Safety Center
Place: South of Cantwell, off Parks Hwy
Summary: 1 snowmobiler caught, buried, and killed.
Preliminary Report from the Alaska Mountain Safety Center, Inc.
December 11, 2000
Here's the quick and dirty on the avalanche fatality that occurred Saturday, 9 December 2000 south of Cantwell. The put-in was north of Dunkle
Mine, around mile 196 of the Parks Highway. The accident site was about 16 miles in from the road, just inside the park boundary. A party of 6
snowmachiners rode to the steep end of a valley and was highmarking on a hill which tapered into a ravine. One snowmachiner became stuck. A
second (the victim, James Thompson, 44) went to help. The first guy got himself unstuck and rode downhill. The victim was just heading
downslope went he was hit from behind (witnesses said he probably didn't even see slide coming and thus, didn't accelerate to try to ride it out).
Fracture was 1-1.5 feet deep. The width estimated by an Alaska State Trooper (Ron Johnson, Cantwell post) who went in to investigate Sunday was
1/4-1/2 mile wide, but the visibility was poor so this is a rough guess. It sounds like new and wind-loaded snow on depth hoar, as the avalanche
released to the ground. Johnson also noted that there were numerous fractures in the area.
The victim was carried roughly 400 yards. Two or three people had witnessed Thompson get caught, others in the area saw the slide, but not the
victim being carried downslope. The team of 5-6 searchers found the sled, and began probing upslope. Within about 15 minutes, they struck the
victim. He was buried face down, about 4 feet deep, roughly 20 feet upslope from his snowmachine. He did not have a pulse. CPR was begun while
the victim was still in the hole, and continued for 40 minutes to 1 hour, without result. Thompson's partners brought his body out to the road by
The accident occurred about 1:30-2 pm Saturday afternoon. A father and son who were in the area, but not part of Thompson's part, rode out for
help. Another party of two also rode out to where they could make cell phone contact. The Alaska State Troopers received notification about
2:35-2:40. A Mast/EMS helicopter was launched from Fairbanks around 3 pm. The AST staged a rescue response from the Parks Highway, but the
original party was able to bring the victim's body to the road.