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Alaska News

Snowmachiner dies in avalanche on Kenai Peninsula

  • Author: Tess Williams
  • Updated: February 11
  • Published February 11

A snowmachiner was buried in an avalanche and died Monday afternoon near Cooper Lake on the Kenai Peninsula, troopers said.

Witnesses immediately began recovery efforts but it was about two hours until 32-year-old Kekai Dang of Kasilof was pulled from the snow, troopers said in an online statement.

Troopers were called to the scene around 3:20 p.m. Cooper Landing Emergency Services and several other agencies assisted in the recovery. The lake is about 5 miles south of Cooper Landing.

It was not immediately clear what caused the avalanche but heavy winds and blowing snow were likely contributing factors, said Wendy Wagner, director of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center.

Wagner said there was a weak and shallow snowpack in the area. Limited snowfall in December and January caused sugary snow to be buried under the most recent snowfalls in late January and early February. Wagner said the multiple buried weak layers make it easier to trigger avalanches.

Dangerous conditions persisted Tuesday and the avalanche center forecast warned that high winds could trigger avalanches throughout the day from Seward to Hatcher Pass.

Wagner said the Cooper Lake area is popular with snowmachiners. Access points near Seward’s Primrose Trail connect the lake to a number of nearby trails and lakes.

A skier died last March in an avalanche at nearby Crescent Lake, and a snowmachiner was buried and died east of V Max hill in Cooper Landing in 2017.

According to the American Avalanche Association online database, there have not been any other avalanche fatalities in Alaska this winter.

Wagner said she and others from the avalanche center were on their way to investigate the scene early Tuesday.