CIRCLEVILLE, Piute County — The body of a prominent St. George resident killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling in Beaver County was recovered Friday.
Beaver County Sheriff Cameron Noel confirmed that the body of Brad Stapley, 41, was found by police K-9s shortly after his buried snowmobile was discovered.
Noel said this was the first incident of a person being trapped in an avalanche in Beaver County in his 27 years as sheriff.
"The world lost an incredible person today. Brad Stapley was one of the kindest people I have ever known," one woman posted on Facebook. It was one of many tributes and messages of condolence that filled social media on Friday as an entire community mourned Stapley's loss.
Thursday, Stapley and two others were snowmobiling in the "bowl" area on Circleville Mountain near Circleville in Piute County about 5 p.m. Two of the snowmobilers started to ride to the bowl when the avalanche occurred, according to the sheriff's office. The third snowmobiler, who was behind the others, saw it happen.
Noel said the man who was with Stapley was buried up to his arms, but was able to dig himself out. The slide was about 200 yards wide.
Crews were unable to search the area Thursday night due to unsafe conditions, the sheriff said. Local, state and federal officials, including 50 volunteers from three counties, began searching in earnest Friday morning.
According to Noel and friends, the Stapley family is well-known in southern Utah. Utah Rep. Travis Seegmiller — R-St. George, an attorney and Dixie State University professor — posted his concern on Facebook Friday from the state Capitol.
"My good friend from Washington City since childhood, Brad Stapley, age 41, is missing after an avalanche while he was snowmobiling," he wrote. "Brad is a prominent local business leader, father and philanthropist — the owner of Stapley's Pharmacies, including his DinoCrossing Pharmacy that I love."
Seegmiller asked everyone to pray for Stapley's safe return.
"Brad means so much to me and to our whole community that I implore you to please join your prayers with those of all the state of Utah right now, that he shall be found safe."
According to Seegmiller, Stapley is survived by a wife and six daughters.
Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Center posted a statement to Facebook describing Stapley's contributions to the community.
"From our caregivers at Dixie Regional Medical Center, we offer our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Brad Stapley, owner of Stapley Pharmacy. Led by Brad's community spirit, Stapley Pharmacy has been a true advocate and invaluable partner in promoting patient education, community health, and safe use of prescription medications.4 comments on this story
We're grateful for his contributions and generosity of spirit that have advanced health care in southern Utah," hospital officials said.
Not long after Stapley's body was recovered, friends started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money for his family.
"Brad was an icon and great friend to so many in southern Utah. His influence touched so many lives and we are in such mourning for his family," according to the page.
Noel said Stapley traveled to Beaver County frequently to snowmobile and was experienced at it.