Searchers find body of snowboarder

Published: Tuesday, March 14 2006 5:14 p.m. MST

OGDEN — After three days of searching, rescue crews recovered the body of a snowboarder swept away in an avalanche near the Snowbasin Ski Resort.

A search dog led search and rescue teams to the body of Ryan Smedley, 34, of South Ogden at 12:23 p.m. Monday in Taylor's Canyon. His body was partially uncovered when searchers did avalanche control to release more snow.

"The new snow brought new avalanche threats," said Weber County Sheriff's Capt. Klint Anderson. Smedley's body was found against a tree, leading them to believe he was thrown into it and then buried by the avalanche. Searchers used a helicopter to transport his body to Ogden's McKay-Dee Hospital.

"It was a quiet mood," said sheriff's deputy Brandon Toll, who helped find Smedley. "It's always difficult when the outcome's like this."

At a base camp set up at the top of Ogden's 29th Street, dozens of Smedley's family and friends gathered to hug each other and cry over the tragic news.

"We're all a little bit numb," said George Smedley, Ryan's older brother. "At the same time, we're relieved at this point we don't have to wait until spring."

Many of Ryan Smedley's friends were visibly upset, sobbing upon hearing of his death. They huddled in a group, sharing stories of their adventures with him.

"The only people that didn't like Ryan were only people who hadn't met him yet," said Brent Mitchell, who described his friend as a man with a giving heart. Smedley owned a contracting company, Lucky Seven Construction.

"He would take derelicts on to work for him," Mitchell said.

Smedley was snowboarding with a friend on Saturday afternoon when they became caught up in the avalanche in the canyon. John Pincombe, 32, survived the slide and spent an hour looking for his friend before going for help.

Search and rescue teams said it's important for anyone venturing into the backcountry to be prepared.

"This is a perfect example," said John Sohl, director of Weber County's volunteer search and rescue team. "You have people extremely skilled at their sport, but their avalanche skills have not kept pace."

Smedley and Pincombe did not have avalanche beacons on them when the slide occurred. Searchers urged people to check the avalanche forecast, always wear beacons and bring probes and shovels to help them should they get in trouble. A tram, which was completed before the Olympics, takes people to the top of Mt. Ogden, where they can ski into Taylor's Canyon. The U.S. Forest Service had closed access to the canyon on Monday, but it was expected to reopen now that the search was over.

"The key thing is to understand that as soon as you step out of the resort, you're stepping into the Stone Age," Sohl said.

George Smedley said his family was relying on their faith and the good memories they have of Ryan to keep them going. He described his brother as "very adventurous," but at the same time responsible. The family has set up a memorial fund at Wells Fargo Bank to help pay for funeral costs.

"We're going to miss him," Smedley said.

Winter weather also created trouble for searchers looking for three young men in southern Utah. Washington County Sheriff's search and rescue teams spent a cold night looking for the men, who became stuck in mud Saturday night near Washington Fields.

"Some guys decided to go off-roading on a dirt road and got stuck," said Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith. The young men became disoriented and spent the night in freezing temperatures before getting their bearings and contacting authorities for help.

Authorities said rapid changes between spring and winter weather make conditions in Utah's backcountry dangerous — no matter where you are.

"You go off road, you get stuck," Smith said Monday. "This is not the time to go four-wheeling. Right now you've got to be very careful where you go in the state of Utah."


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS