Medical examiner identifies man killed in Crystal Mountain avalanche

One person was killed and five others were trapped in an avalanche at Crystal Mountain Saturday morning.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Office says around 10:50 a.m., six skiers were in the Silver Basin area, when an avalanche swept through and trapped them. Everyone in the group was wearing an avalanche beacon, and most were able to climb out of the snow and regroup.

Ski patrol was not in the area, as this was the backcountry, according to the sheriff's office.

The person killed in the avalanche was identified as 66-year-old Robert Weisel of Issaquah. The medical examiner said he died of multiple blunt force injuries. 

Earlier Saturday morning, the mountain resort confirmed 100 mph winds at the summit—hurricane-status winds that forced them to close the Mt. Rainier gondola.

RELATED: Avalanche risks remain following first deadly incident of the season

Following the avalanche, Crystal Mountain issued a statement:

"At approximately 10:50am on December 11, 2021, an avalanche was reported in a closed area of the resort known as Silver Basin. This area was uncontrolled and not mitigated for avalanche hazard since this area had not yet opened for the season. Six backcountry skiers, wearing avalanche transceivers, were traveling[sic] uphill and triggered the avalanche which caught all six individuals. Two additional unrelated backcountry skiers were also in the area and witnessed the avalanche and then reported the incident to Ski Patrol. Ski Patrol arrived and immediately began assisting in recovery efforts. Five members of the party were successfully recovered while one member was found unconscious. Resuscitation efforts began at approximately 11:05am, and at 11:15am, after no response, they suspended CPR efforts and waited for Ski Patrol to arrive to recover the victim and escort the group down the mountain. The skier was a male in his 60’s.

"Crystal Mountain has received twelve inches of snow in the last 24 hours, with winds reaching 100mph at the summit. As snow continues to fall, Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol reminds backcountry skiers to research uphill travel policies and check the avalanche forecasts before heading into the backcountry.

"The Northwest Avalanche Center will conduct a full investigation which can be found on the NWAC website.

"As skiers and riders ourselves, this event saddens all of us here at Crystal Mountain. We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the deceased. We are working closely with the families of all the affected individuals to ensure their continued care."

Editor's note: The Sheriff's Office issued a correction—this was a self-rescue, as ski patrol was not on patrol in the area.

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