Sun Valley Fire Department Backcountry Rescue

First responders from various agencies in Blaine County prepare to search the Baker Creek area for a victim buried in an avalanche Wednesday afternoon.

      A Jerome man was killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling Wednesday in the Baker Creek drainage about half a mile northeast of Baker Lake, north of Ketchum.

     According to the Sawtooth Avalanche Center, two snowmobilers were caught in the slide at nearly 9,000 feet elevation. One of the men escaped the avalanche and managed to locate his fully buried partner by his transponder and remove some snow from the man’s face. However, the partner and rescue personnel were unable to revive him.

     The victim was identified by the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office as Kirk Douglas Rongen, 50, of Jerome, according to a press release issued Thursday.

      The Blaine County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, Ketchum and Sun Valley fire departments, Wood River Fire & Rescue, Sawtooth Avalanche Center and Sun Valley Heli-Ski all responded around 3:30 p.m. to the reported incident.

     The Sawtooth Avalanche Center rated the avalanche hazard “considerable” Wednesday throughout the forecast area.

     Avalanche Center Director Scott Savage said the accident is being investigated by his staff, and a report of the technical aspects of the slide will be available in the coming days. Savage said the combination of 2 to 3 feet of fresh snow in the area along with moderate wind conditions created “complex snowpack with multiple weak layers.”

See Friday's edition of the Idaho Mountain Express for the full story.