Italian ski vacationer crushed by falling glacier ice in Alaska backcountry

An Italian man vacationing in Alaska is dead after being crushed by ice falling from a backcountry glacier in the Chugach Mountains Sunday, Alaska State Troopers said.

Troopers reported in an online dispatch that Chugach Powder Guides notified them of the death shortly after 5 p.m. Sunday. The victim, identified as 28-year-old Alexander Hellweger, was part of a group of eight friends from Italy and Belgium vacationing in Alaska. Seven of the group's members spent the day heli-skiing with Chugach Powder Guides, then, before returning to Girdwood, flew to the head of Lake George Glacier as part of a package tour.

The glacier terminates in a valley above the Knik and Colony glaciers and is a short distance, by air, from Girdwood. Chugach Powder Guides said the area is regularly used for sightseeing.

Hellweger and the others were getting ready to take a group photo when the ice began to crack, trooper spokesperson Beth Ipsen said.

"Alexander was away from the group, but making his way there when they heard the crack of ice as if it was going to calve," Ipsen said. "Some members of the group ran when they heard the ice start to crack."

A large piece of ice calved off of the glacier and "crushed" Hellweger, troopers wrote.

A statement provided by Chugach Powder Guides said that employees at the scene "administered CPR and medical response but the gentleman was unable to be resuscitated."

The tour group reported conditions at the glacier Sunday were unseasonably warm and sunny, according to Ipsen, similar to the winter weather so far around much of Alaska.

"Diminishing light and the danger of more ice calving," made it impossible for responders to retrieve Hellweger's body Sunday evening, troopers said.

Volunteers from Chugach Powder Guides and Alaska Mountain Rescue Group were able to recover the body shortly after 2 p.m. Monday. The Anchorage Fire Department also contributed equipment for the recovery, Ipsen said. Hellweger's body was delivered to the State Medical Examiner's Office in Anchorage.

Hellweger's next-of-kin in Italy have been notified, troopers said.