Updated: March 6th, 2009 8:46 PM

Ketchum woman dies in avalanche

Other victim injured in snow slide near Galena Lodge


Express photo by David N. Seelig 

Skier Marc Hanselman, who was in the area at the time of the avalanche accident, helps direct Blaine County Sheriff's Officers to the avalanche site. Express photo by David N. Seelig

Officials involved with the response to an avalanche accident near Galena Lodge today have confirmed that one skier was killed in the slide.

Stella Keane, 53, of Ketchum, was killed around noon today when she was caught in a snow slide while backcountry skiing in the area near Gladiator Peak, also known as Mushroom Ridge.

Blaine County Coroner Russ Mikel confirmed the fatality this evening. Keane was apparently dug free from avalanche debris shortly after the slide occurred, but that injuries she sustained while caught in the avalanche were enough to take her life.

Another skier, a male, was recovered alive with serious injuries sustained in the slide, including a broken leg.

The accident apparently occurred near Mushroom Ridge, a popular backcountry skiing spot. The reports indicated that one victim was critically injured and one was buried in the remote area. As of about 2 p.m. this afternoon, authorities stated that the victims were removed from the debris.

Initial reports were sketchy at best, based on a lack of information from the Blaine County Sheriff's Office.

Rescue crews from the Blaine County Search and Rescue were also called in, according to Chuck Turner, the Blaine County Disaster Services coordinator. A rescue camp was established at Galena Lodge, with snowmobiles, helicopters and on-foot travelers all participating in the rescue.

Searchers called for assistance from an Army Air National Guard helicopter crew.

A winter storm now affecting the area made air travel difficult, and some of the responding helicopters had to return from the stormy north valley airspace.


Express photo by David N. Seelig 

A rescue helicopter circles the accident area late Friday afternoon. Express photo by David N. Seelig.

Janet Kellam from the Sawtooth Avalanche Center said this evening that she and Blase Reardon were skiing in the Baker Creek drainage today when they got word of the accident early this afternoon and hustled toward the accident site to help.

Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson and Doug Abromeit, the director of the U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center were skiing in the area today with Lee Melly and Kaz Thea, and responded to cries for help.

Mikel and Kellam said that all four members of the victim's party have been accounted for.

But Kellam said tonight that avalanche conditions in the North Valley remain dangerous and that backcountry skiers and snowmobilers are encouraged to use caution wherever possible.  

This morning's avalanche advisory from the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center was set at "considerable" for the northern Wood River Valley.

Check Wednesday's Idaho Mountain Express for more photos and a thorough report.

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