Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: WWAN per Anchorage Daily News
Place: Cony Mt., dividing Gulkana Glacier and Cantwell Glacier, Delta Range
Summary: 3 snowmobilers, caught, one partially buried and rescued, and 2 killed
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Man, daughter killed in avalanche
SLIDE: They didn't realize they'd stopped on a ledge that was unsupported.'
By Tony Hopfinger
Anchorage Daily News
(Published: January 14, 2002)
A father and daughter died and a woman was injured Saturday near Paxson when a snow ledge the
snowmachiners stopped on broke apart, plunging the Fairbanks residents several hundred feet into a
Donny Rice, 35, and daughter Jessica Rice, 13, died, raising the number of Alaska avalanche fatalities
this winter to five. Their bodies had not been recovered as of Sunday, according to Alaska State
Susan Rice, 38, the third victim, suffered a hip injury and was dug out by her husband, Wesley Rice of
The avalanche happened late Saturday afternoon in a treacherous area off the Richardson Highway near
Summit Lake north of Paxson, troopers said.
Donny, Jessica and Susan had stopped their snowmachines on a cornice when it broke.
Troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson called it a freak accident.
"They didn't realize they had stopped on a ledge that was unsupported," he said. "They just happened
to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Wesley Rice was not with the group at the time of the slide but was nearby to help.
He heard his wife screaming and climbed into the ravine, where he found her buried up to her neck. He
dug her out and called 911 on a cellphone, Wilkinson said.
At first, a search helicopter could neither find Wesley and Susan nor land in the rough terrain. Two
troopers on snowmachines eventually spotted the couple but were also unable to reach them because of
the many boulders, drop-offs and cliffs scattered throughout the area, Wilkinson said.
The helicopter returned and rescued the couple by 10:40 p.m. Saturday. Besides Susan's hip injury, she
and Wesley suffered hypothermia, troopers said.
Rescuers couldn't find Donny or Jessica and delayed the search until Sunday morning.
Mountain rescue groups, search dogs and an Air National Guard helicopter crew descended on the scene
A pararescue member with the 210th Air Rescue was lowered into the avalanche area and found the
victims' bodies in the morning.
"He touched the bodies and confirmed they were deceased," Wilkinson said.
Because the area is so treacherous, authorities decided it was too risky to recover the bodies. Wilkinson
said troopers will monitor the conditions over the coming days but said it could be weeks before it is
safe to do the recovery.
Three other people have died in avalanches across the state this winter, including two on
snowmachines. This winter's five avalanche deaths compare with four last winter.
In a separate snowmachining accident this weekend, a Bethel man died early Sunday when his vehicle
hit a snow berm while traveling an estimated 70 to 80 mph, troopers said.
Dennis Lamont, 24, of Bethel, was riding on the Kuskokwim River about 5 1/2 miles from Bethel when
the accident happened. Troopers said Lamont is believed to have been drinking before the crash.
Reporter Tony Hopfinger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 907-257-4344.