Search for Utah Avalanche Victims Halted

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PROVO, UT, Dec. 29, 2003 (AP by Christie Hill) -- The search for the bodies of two snowboarders swept down a mountainside by an avalanche was called off for two days Monday because of bad weather.

Provo Canyon was slammed with 10 inches of snow Monday, and high wind and more snow would make it difficult for search crews to safely work on the 11,000-foot Elk's Peak area, where four successive avalanches trapped the snowboarders, said Utah County sheriff's Deputy Dennis Harris.

Five friends were caught by the avalanche Friday in a remote area with no avalanche control about 25 miles northeast of Provo and a mile north of the Sundance ski resort. Two survived even though they were swept a half mile down a narrow chute in Provo Canyon.

J.D. Settle, 20, said he was panicked when he was enveloped by the masses of snow flying down the mountainside.

"There's nothing but white," Settle said.

He dug himself out, but then had to be rescued after more snow buried him up to his neck. He was treated for a knee injury and hypothermia.

"I thought I was gone. That third one, I thought it was going to bury me because I had just my head poking out of the snow and that's it," Settle said as he joined the search teams Sunday looking for his friends.

The body of Mike Hebert, 19, of Orem, was found in four feet of snow on Sunday afternoon. He was identified by his driver's license and cell phone, Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy said.

Adam Merz, 18, of Orem and Rod Newberry, 20, of Pleasant Grove were still missing.

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