No plans to attempt recovery of Washington avalanche victims

February 24, 2023 GMT

LEAVENWORTH, Wash. (AP) — There are still no plans to attempt a recovery of three climbers killed in an avalanche on Washington state’s Colchuck Peak last weekend because conditions remain too dangerous, authorities said Thursday.

Two avalanche experts tried to reach the scene on Wednesday, but failed to make it all the way due to the risk of further slides, according to the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office. At least 20 inches of snow had fallen in the area in the last couple days, further complicating any recovery efforts, they said.

It was too cloudy Thursday for the sheriff’s office to send a helicopter to survey the site, said sheriff’s Sgt. Jason Reinfeld.

The victims were Seong Cho, a 54-year-old male Korean citizen from West Hartford, Connecticut; Jeannie Lee, a 60-year-old woman from Bayside, New York; and Yun Park, a 66-year-old man from Palisades Park, New Jersey. They were members of a climbing club based in New York, the sheriff’s office said.

They were killed Sunday as they ascended a steep, snow-packed gulley on the 8,705-foot (2,653-meter) Colchuck Peak, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) east of Seattle. A fourth member of their party was also caught up in the slide, but suffered only minor injuries and was able to verify that the three had died before additional avalanches covered the bodies.

The avalanche was the the deadliest in the U.S. since four backcountry skiers were killed in an avalanche in Utah two years ago.