Avalanche Rescuers Losing Hope

As the search continues Wednesday for two snowmobilers missing after a deadly Alaskan avalanche, rescuers are less optimistic about finding the two men.

A mile-wide wall of snow is slowly burying hopes of finding the snowmobilers.

Four bodies were recovered after the snowslide roared down an Alaskan mountain Sunday, dropping up to 30 feet of snow in spots.

Â"We're down to two remaining victims who were not found in the avalanche,Â" State Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson told Anchorage public radio station KSKA.

Still missing Wednesday were Sgt. Victor Jones of Elmendorf Air Force Base and Aaron Arthur, 29, of Palmer.

As wet, clumpy snow fell Tuesday at the site 55 miles south of Anchorage, nine teams of searchers plunged 10-foot poles into the snowy debris, trying to locate the men.

Authorities Tuesday used a jumpy videotape of the avalanche for clues about where to look for victims.

The amateur eyewitness videotape shows several snowmobilers trying to escape as giant slabs of snow break loose from an Alaskan ridge.

The four dead were identified as Christopher Scott, 28, Jodi Combs, 26, and Jeff Saunders, 29, all of Anchorage; and Dan Demers, 37, of Eagle River.

The snow roared down the mountain high in Turnagain Pass, a popular recreation area in the Chugach National Forest about 55 miles southeast of Anchorage.

Officials say the avalanche was man-made, not a natural disaster, reports Michelle Delaney of CBS Affiliate KTVA-TV.

The Alaska slides may have been triggered by Â"highmarking,Â" in which snowmobilers drive straight uphill to see who can make the highest mark on the mountain, said Wilkinson.

However, Dan Hourihan, chairman of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, said warm weather and 8 feet of fresh snow created the conditions for the massive slides.

If the death toll rises to six, the avalanche will be the nation's deadliest since March 1982, when seven people were killed at Alpine Meadows ski resort in California.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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