Published April 24, 2011
JACKSON, Wyo. – Two skiers swept up in a massive avalanche while they slept were found dead Sunday after a six-day search, a Grand Teton National Park official said.
Rescuers recovered the bodies of 27-year-old Walker Pannell Kuhl and 31-year-old Gregory Seftick after digging into about 15 feet of snow, said park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs.
Skaggs said investigators believe Kuhl and Seftick were in their tents and inside their sleeping bags when they were swept up in an avalanche last week either Saturday night or Sunday morning.
Skaggs said the pair may have thought they were camping in a safe spot because they were next to a large boulder.
"This was a significant avalanche. An entire snowfield gave way," Skaggs said. She estimated the avalanche was at least 200 feet wide and about 300 yards long.
"There's lots of avalanches up in the Tetons but this was a really big one," she said.
Kuhl was from Salt Lake City, and Seftick was a Minnesota native but who was living in Columbia Falls, Mont. Skaggs says Seftick was an emergency room doctor and Kuhl worked for the Treasury Department in Salt Lake City.
They were reported missing after Kuhl didn't come to work Monday.
A search crew of about 35 and teams of dogs were involved in the search. Skaggs said searchers recognized Monday there had been an avalanche after flying over the rescue area in Garnet Canyon. However, it wasn't until Saturday night that a ranger heard sounds believed to be avalanche beacon signals coming from inside the snow.
A helicopter flew park rangers to where the sound was coming from Sunday morning to continue digging and that's when they found the bodies.
Skaggs said Kuhl and Seftick were experienced mountaineers and backcountry hikers.