A Kasilof man died in an avalanche while snowmachining near Cooper Landing on Monday afternoon. Thirty-two-year-old Kekai Dang was caught in a slab avalanche on a 45-degree slope while riding from Snug Harbor Road south of Cooper Landing. The accident happened about halfway between Cooper Lake to the northwest and Lost Lake to the southeast.
According to an Alaska State Troopers report, witnesses immediately began recovery efforts, but it took two hours to locate and remove Dang from the snow. Troopers were called to the scene around 3:20 p.m.
Wendy Wagner, director of the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center, investigated the slide area Tuesday.
“This avalanche is around 150 feet wide and it ran around 300 vertical feet. It was a slab avalanche that ranged in size from around one foot to four, even five feet thick. In this area, the slab is around three feet and it’s very hard with some softer, powder snow on top,” Wagner said.
Wagner says there was a weak layer of snow from the cold temperatures in January, with a hard, thick slab of snow on top that had been compacted from wind.
"The slope angle in this slide was around 45 degrees at the steepest and on the edges, here, it’s just around 30 degrees. It’s believed the snowmachiner rode up from the middle, potentially did a high mark and was caught in the slide after they triggered it and buried. We’re very sad for this tragic outcome and we send our deepest condolences to the friends, the family and all those who are affected,” she said.
The avalanche information center says that strong winds have created dangerous slab avalanche conditions from Seward to Hatcher Pass. Avalanche danger for Wednesday in the Turnagain Pass area is rated as considerable at all elevations.