LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Northern California man who was caught in an avalanche while “extreme” skiing with two friends in the rugged back-country wilderness near Lake Tahoe has died from his injuries, authorities said on Friday.
Benjamin Brackett, 29, was pronounced dead at Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee on Thursday evening, Nevada County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Donna Nelson said.
Brackett had been rushed to the hospital earlier on Thursday
after suffering serious injuries in the avalanche, which struck as he and two companions skied down a mountain, Placer County Sheriff’s Lt. John Weaver said.
Weaver said the three friends had “skinned” up the side of a mountain using special devices on their skis and apparently triggered the avalanche as they skied back down the other side.
“(Brackett) was caught up in it and swept downhill a few hundred feet and hit a couple trees on the way down,” he said.
Brackett’s friends were unhurt and one sought help while the other stayed with the injured man until a search and rescue team on skis could reach him, Weaver said.
Because of the difficult terrain snowmobiles and snowcats could not reach Brackett, who had to be loaded on a sled and carried out by rescuers, he said.
“It was very rugged country and we had a very large snowfall,” Weaver said.
“It’s a known avalanche area and at that time it was considered high avalanche danger,” he said. “Those gentlemen took the risk of going back up there and getting in some extreme skiing.”
Weaver said the nature of Brackett’s fatal injuries was not immediately clear.
“The only thing reported initially was a broken leg,” he said. “But riding in an avalanche and hitting trees, who knows. That will be part of the coroner’s investigation. Avalanches can reach high speed and when you’re at a high speed and hitting objects such as trees the blunt force can be brutal.”
Sergeant Paul Schmidt, spokesman for the Nevada County Sheriff, said an autopsy would be conducted to determine the cause of death.
The incident came less than two weeks after four people were killed in two separate avalanches near ski resorts in Washington state. Eight others initially said to be missing in the worst of those incidents were later found alive.
Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Tim Gaynor