Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2 men stranded by Hailey avalanche

Della Mountain slide blocks Big Wood River

Express Staff Writer

A dog crosses an avalanche bridge next to War Eagle Drive in Hailey on Sunday. The slide blocked the Big Wood River on Saturday evening, threatening homes and stranding two men. Photo by David N. Seelig

An avalanche that began high on the eastern slope of Della Mountain west of Hailey on Saturday evening blocked the Big Wood River, nearly flooding homes along War Eagle Drive. The slide was one of several that occurred on the mountain's east face.

Two Hailey men ventured across the debris dam to check out the effects of the slide and were stranded when a channel of the Big Wood broke through behind them. They spent the next two hours stranded beneath a dangerous avalanche chute.

Dave Jensen and Kevin Wilson, both residents of War Eagle Drive, were returned to safety, uninjured, by emergency personnel at 8:45 p.m.

"They walked over a snow bridge to check out the slide. While they were on the other side, the snow bridge went away," said Hailey Deputy Fire Chief Carl Hjelm.

Hjelm waited with a safety crew downstream of the slide while rescuers crossed the river at a waterfront residence at 1020 War Eagle Drive to rescue the two men.

Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman, the incident commander at the scene, said he weighed the risk of further sliding from Della before instructing rescuers to extend a ladder across the river. A rescuer then crossed the ladder to bring the men to safety.

Nineteen emergency personnel and seven trucks from both Wood River Rural and the Hailey Fire Department responded to the rescue.

"It went very well," Lassman said. "We don't advise anyone to go and check out an area after a slide. It could be days before it stabilizes enough to get in there safely."

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