Two Oregon skiers watched as their friend was swept over a snow-covered volcano cliff and died as a result of the fall, authorities said.
A search and rescue team with the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched at about 12:45 p.m. Wednesday to a report of an avalanche at Paulina Peak in Newberry National Volcanic Monument.
The International Emergency Coordination Response Center (IERCC) informed deputies that they had received an SOS alarm from a device and provided GPS coordinates for the location.
A second alert from the device stated there had been an avalanche, and that CPR was in progress on a person who was not breathing.
The person caught in the avalanche was later identified as 33-year-old Erik Hefflefinger of Bend, Oregon.
According to his friends and other skiers on the scene, they witnessed the avalanche from below and saw Hefflefinger being carried over a cliff band by the avalanche debris, authorities said.
Hefflefinger was located by his friends, who were not buried by the avalanche, and immediately started lifesaving efforts.
Snow conditions limited the arrival of some first responders, but successful air rescue operations allowed crews to reach Hefflefinger about 3 hours after the avalanche.
Life-saving measures were performed after discovering his faint pulse. However, the man succumbed to his injuries.
As a result of the investigation, deputies said the victim possibly hit a tree while caught in the avalanche debris.
Hefflefinger’s death was not the first of the year in Deschutes County. Two prior avalanche fatalities have been investigated since January, deputies said. Before these tragedies, it had been 9 years since a fatality was recorded due to an avalanche.
The summit of Paulina Peak with an elevation of 7,984 feet, is the highest point on the Newberry Volcano, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.