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Published: Sunday, 8/4/2013

Search set for snowboarder buried when ice tunnel collapses on Oregon's Mount Hood


PORTLAND, Ore. — Rescuers were resuming a search today for a snowboarder who was buried in a collapsing ice tunnel on Oregon’s Mount Hood.

The snowboarder was traveling with five companions when the collapse hit Saturday afternoon, officials said.

The other five, all in their 20s, were uninjured and called police. They also attempted to dig the man out, but were unable to break through thick snow and ice.

Authorities identified the missing man as Collin Backowski, 25, of Pines, Colo.

“They tried digging for an hour, but the problem is the stuff is so thick that they couldn’t get through it,” Hood River Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Pete Hughes said. “We’re getting chainsaws, if that’s any indication.”

Rescuers quickly responded but halted efforts about 11 p.m. Saturday, and said they will resume the search around dawn today, Hughes said.

“Responders ... probed the area and were not successful in finding him,” Hughes said.

Hughes said that according to rescuers, a large amount of snow and ice fell on the snowboarding, making survival difficult.

The man was trapped on the White River Glacier, which begins about 6,000 feet up the south side of the mountain.

“It trapped one person in the tunnel, (but) we’re not sure if he was the last one out or it just caught him,” Hughes said. “It sounds like there’s a significant amount of ice and snow that fell.”

An airplane was dispatched to survey the area, along with crews from local sheriff’s offices.

Seven rescuers, including five members of an all-volunteer group called the CragRats, were on the mountain on Saturday night.

Companions took pictures of the area just before the tunnel collapsed, Hughes said, giving searchers a better idea of where to search.

Warm temperatures made snow on the mountain slushier and more easily sloughed off the surface, adding to the challenge of attempting to reach the snowboarder.

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