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Laura Jean Straight, 65, died on Oct. 9, 2019, in Bellingham, Washington. She was born to Mildred Irwin and Al Betmyeren on Dec.
3/2/2018
Avalanche victim recovered: Searchers finally able to reach the site of Sunday’s slide

By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer

Searchers on Thursday located and recovered the body of Marvin Scott, 39, who had been buried in an avalanche Sunday while snowboarding on Dude Mountain.

Weather and snow conditions in the area this week had made recovery efforts untenable, with Thursday being the first available window to safely recover the body.

Scott and another snowboarder had been on Dude Mountain when the avalanche buried Scott at around noon on Sunday.

Scott's companion unsuccessfully attempted to dig him out for more than an hour, then moved to cell-phone range. The Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad and the Alaska State Troopers were contacted.

Both snowboarders had avalanche beacons, and according to Jerry Kiffer of KVRS, that beacon was used on Thursday to help locate the body from within the avalanche slide.

“We brought down a crew from Juneau Mountain Rescue; there was one from Juneau Mountain Rescue and one from SEADOGS, and they brought down some equipment from Juneau,” Kiffer explained.

Kiffer said part of that equipment included a long-range receiver, tuned specifically to pick up avalanche transceivers.

A little before 10 a.m. on Thursday, a reconnaissance flight was sent out, and because of the clearer weather conditions, the crew was able to locate Scott’s snowboard and evaluate the extent of the slide.

From there, two helicopters arrived to the site at about noon Thursday to recover the body.

“The recon flight got a good look, they came back, reconfigured the helicopter to carry the long-range receiver and then we sent two helicopters up,” Kiffer said, “one with the long-range receiver and then we sent a support ship up to drop off team members up on the ridge line.”

That support group — comprised of the extra members from JMR and SEADOGS — conducted snow assessments, dug snow pits above the work area and tested stability.

“They did several of those tests as they descended from the ridge line down towards where we thought the beacon was, kind of a slow methodical process,” Kiffer said, “… going from one known safe area to the next.”

After the crew reached the area of the buried avalanche beacon, they began to probe the snow, ultimately recovering the body at 4:17 p.m. Thursday. According to Kiffer, the victim was buried under 1.3 meters of snowpack.

Kiffer noted that Scott’s death has been particularly tough for some members of the KVRS, as many on the crew knew Scott, who was a resident of Ketchikan.

“This is a kind of a tragedy that has been difficult for our organization,” Kiffer said. “The victim was well known to several of our members, being part of that outdoor community and the ski community.”

Kiffer said that First City has shown much support, though.

“The support that we’ve received from the community has been really beneficial, it was very stressful conditions,” Kiffer said. “… And to have good support from the community back here when they arrived — it meant a whole lot to them.

“We really appreciate the community support,” he added.

Kiffer said that Scott’s next of kin have been notified.