One Body Found in Utah Avalanche

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PROVO, UT, Dec. 28, 2003 (AP by Christie L. Hill) -- Search crews on Sunday found the body of one of three snowboarders buried under a huge avalanche, after two days of digging and probing through snow piled up dozens of feet deep in spots.

Mike Hebert, 19, of Orem, was found in just four feet of snow in Provo Canyon. He was identified by his driver's license and cell phone, which were with the body when a searcher probing the snow with a pole found it late Sunday afternoon, Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy said.

Hebert's relatives were at the scene and were notified shortly after the body was discovered.

Hopeful that the bodies of the other snowboarders were nearby, searchers worked after dark Sunday in hopes of finding Hebert's friends Adam Merz, 18, and Rod Newberry, 20. Authorities said a storm expected to dump more than a foot of snow would prevent the search from resuming Monday.

Hebert, Merz and Newberry were among five snowboarding friends swept away Friday by the avalanche, in a remote area with no avalanche control about 25 miles northeast of Provo and a mile north of Sundance ski resort. The other two men survived, despite being swept a half mile down a narrow chute above Provo Canyon's Aspen Grove area.

J.D. Settle, 20, dug himself out of the avalanche, only to be buried to his neck by a second, smaller slide. He survived with a slight knee injury and was treated for hypothermia, then joined the rescue effort Sunday afternoon.

"I want to go up and help find my friends. That's all I want to do," Settle said before Hebert's body was found. "I thought I was gone. That third one, I thought it was going to bury me because I had just my head poking out of the snow and that's it."

There was no sign of the missing snowboarders until a dog sniffed out Merz's black ski cap along the eastern edge of the snowpack left by the avalanches. Searching in the same area, rescuers found a backpack, a snowboard and another hat before discovering Hebert's body.

The search was halted for a time Sunday so crews could use explosives to blast away loose snow as a precaution against further avalanches. The search continued even after the sky turned cloudy and the wind whipped through the canyon.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press