Rescuers recover body of snowboarder buried on Mt. Hood

MOUNT HOOD, Ore. Rescuers recovered the body of a snowboarder who died after he was buried in a collapsing ice tunnel on Mount Hood, the Hood River County Sheriff's Office said.

Sheriff's office spokeswoman Tiffany Peterson said a rescue crew brought the body of 25-year-old Collin Backowski down the mountain. They found his body just before 9 a.m. under eight to ten feet of snow and ice.

The crew of 12 people reached the area where the collapse occurred before 6 a.m. and began working to dig out snow and ice with chainsaws and other tools. They removed several tons of debris by hand, Peterson said in a news release.

Backowski was traveling with five companions when the collapse hit Saturday afternoon, officials said.

The other five, all in their 20s, were not hurt and called police. They also attempted to dig Backowski out, but were unable to break through thick snow and ice.

Grant Giller was one of Backowski's companions on the mountain.

"Two days ago I went and scouted a crevasse to jump over," said Giller. "One of the kids up there is a professional snowboarder like myself. Two of the guys up there I know are photographers. So we were just going to take some photos."

Backowski was from Pines, Colorado. He is listed among the coaches at the High Cascade Snowboard Camp on Mount Hood. Camp leaders posted a statement on the camp Facebook page that said they were "deeply saddened" by Backowski's death.

The camp plans to provide grief counseling for campers and staff.

Backowski was trapped on the White River Glacier, which begins about 6,000 feet up the south side of the mountain. The group of snowboarders was at about 8,100 feet when Backowski was buried. Rescuers quickly responded but halted efforts about 11 p.m. Saturday.

"It trapped one person in the tunnel, (but) we're not sure if he was the last one out or it just caught him," Hood River Sheriff's Office Sgt. Pete Hughes said Saturday. "It sounds like there's a significant amount of ice and snow that fell."

An airplane was dispatched to survey the area, along with crews from local sheriff's offices.

Companions took pictures of the area just before the tunnel collapsed, Hughes said, giving searchers a better idea of where to look.

Warm temperatures made snow on the mountain slushier and more easily sloughed off the surface, adding to the challenge of attempting to reach Backowski.

The snowboarders were in an area outside of resort boundaries.

KATU's Hillary Lake contributed to this story.

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