18-year-old Chase Adams and his father were riding snowmobiles in Farmington Canyon on Jan. 18 when Adams was caught, fully buried, and killed on a slope just above the Farmington Lakes.
As reported by the Utah Avalanche Center, Adams was sidehilling across the slope just above several mature evergreen trees. The avalanche happened just after he passed the trees and began to turn downhill.
The spot of the avalanche exists on the border between the Salt Lake and Ogden forecast zones, but it is generally considered part of the Ogden zone.
The avalanche forecast for the day of the accident rated the danger for that terrain as MODERATE, with wind-drifted snow later identified as the problem.
At some point during the avalanche, he was able to deploy his avalanche airbag. He was carried in the avalanche and fully buried at the toe of the slope where the debris piled up deeply.
Adams’ father was parked on the other side of the two small lakes and witnessed the avalanche. He called 911 at approximately 1:38 p.m. Chase was wearing an avalanche transceiver, but his father was not.
Several other groups who own cabins in the area were riding nearby as well. At least one rider among these groups had ridden on the slope prior to the accident. Some of these riders and others in the area saw the avalanche and came to help.
One person began searching with a transceiver and detected Chases’ signal. As this person got close to the burial location, he became a little confused because the direction lights on his transceiver were flipping back and forth which can happen when standing directly over a buried person.
In the confusion, he switched his focus from the direction lights to the numbers indicating distance to the victim. He moved to a location where he got the lowest number which was 4 meters.
The informal rescue group began searching with a probe and got a probe strike after about 10 tries, at which point they began digging.
They also noted the depth of the probe strike was almost 6 ft. It is likely the probe struck Chase’s backpack or the inflated air bag. At some point during the digging process, a shovel punctured the airbag and deflated it.
Davis County Search and Rescue (DCSAR) personnel were paged at 1:41 p.m. and the first two personnel from DCSAR arrived via helicopter at 2:17 p.m., 39 minutes after the 911 call. They commented that everyone seemed exhausted from digging up to that point.
Based on interviews with multiple people, it took approximately 50 minutes from the time of the avalanche until they reached Chase’s airway and cleared it of snow. It took at least another 20 minutes to fully extricate him.
He was found facing slightly downhill. He was transported to the University of Utah Hospital via an AirMed helicopter. The following day his snowmobile was found buried slightly below his feet
The Utah Avalanche Center offers its condolences to the friends, family, rescuers, and everyone affected by the accident and hopes to learn from the incident to better prevent and respond to future events.