Victims in eastern Idaho avalanche identified as two local high schoolers

Two avalanche fatalities occurred Friday, December 17, in Idaho’s Big Hole Mountains near Driggs.

The Teton County, Idaho, Sheriff’s Office received a call at approximately 2:49 p.m. Friday of a slide in the Relay Ridge area near Ryan Peak. One individual was reported to be skiing, another on a snowmobile. Search and rescue teams from Teton County, Wyoming, and Madison County, Idaho, responded alongside the sheriff’s office and Teton County, Idaho Search and Rescue, with aerial resources provided by Air Idaho Rescue.

East Idaho News identified the young men as Kade McKinlay, 17, and Janson Webster, 17, both of Rigby, Idaho, after McKinlay’s family released a statement on social media. It is not clear whether the two were carrying avalanche safety equipment. They are the U.S.’s second and third avalanche fatalities this winter following a fatal slide Dec. 11 at Crystal Mountain in Washington.

According to the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center (BTAC), the two were on the slope at the same time when the slide occurred. The soft slab released on an eastern aspect at around 8300 feet with a slope angle of between 36 and 40 degrees. The crown depth was 40 inches.

This avalanche in Idaho’s Big Hole Mountains killed two juveniles Friday, one on skis and another on a snowmobile. [Photo] Courtesy Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center

The BTAC doesn’t publish a forecast for the Big Holes, but its report for the adjacent Teton Range rated avalanche danger as moderate between 7,500 and 9,000 feet, the elevation band where the fatalities occurred, and considerable above 9,000 feet. The region has received between three and four feet of snow since Dec. 5, and strong winds have loaded leeward slopes.

“These slabs will be most sensitive in steep upper elevation terrain and have the potential to step down to more deeply buried weak layers within the snowpack,” the BTAC Friday morning forecast for the Tetons said. “At the mid elevations avalanches will be possible to trigger on steep isolated wind loaded features.”

Editors’ Note: This article was updated Monday, December 20, to include the victims’ names.

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  1. Jolyn webster says:

    Hello. I’m Jansons mom and I was wondering if I could get this picture

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