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Searchers at Crystal Mountain need snow melt to find missing skier Paul Melby. Tree Well danger remains

Post by Jeff Mayor / The News Tribune on March 9, 2011 at 11:31 am |
March 9, 2011 11:33 am

While people continue to search for missing skier Paul Melby at Crystal Mountain the official search is on hold until the snow melts.

Last week, ski patrol director Paul Baugher described the search as “searching for a needle in a stack of needles.”

Melby went missing on March 1 and is presumed to have fallen in a tree well. He was skiing alone and all signs of his whereabouts have long since been covered up by snow.

Tree wells continue to be hazard at northwest ski areas as fresh snow continues to fall. On her blog, ski patroller Kim Kircher (also the wife of Crystal owner John Kircher) recounted a tree well incident that took place Sunday.

“Yesterday, my step-son, Andrew, helped a father and son who had fallen into a tree well at Crystal. While riding the Chinook Express, Andrew saw a skier calling for help near the top of the lift. When Andrew arrived, the skier pointed towards a tree saying that two people had fallen in.

“Andrew could not see any sign of the two skiers until he took off his own skis and approached the tree. Nearly ten feet down, a boy and his father–who had dove in after his five year-old son when he skied right into the tree and fell through the airy snow surrounding it–struggled to extract themselves.

“The father handed his son up to Andrew, who reached into the tree well to pull him out. The boy, while frightened and crying, was otherwise unhurt. Here’s the part of the story that truly drives it home: even with Andrew on the surface tamping down the snow, even while he was uninjured and fully conscious, the man could not pull himself out of the tree well. Andrew handed him a ski pole, and he still couldn’t extricate himself. Not until Andrew reached down and yanked the man out – pulling with all this strength – was the man able to finally reach the surface.

“This was a near miss. Fortunately for the five year-old, his father had seen him fall into the tree well, and equally fortuitous was that Andrew saw the situation from the chairlift and could pull them both out.”

For more information on tree well safety visit http://www.treewelldeepsnowsafety.com/

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