Libby Man Saw Avalanche Bury Friends - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Libby Man Saw Avalanche Bury Friends

Posted: Updated:
TROY -

Friends and family are still dealing with the loss of a Libby man buried and killed by an avalanche Saturday, less than twenty miles southwest of Troy.

Bryan Harlow, 49, suffocated under several feet of snow.

Nathan Schwegel, 33, made that 911 call a little past 2:00 p.m. on Saturday. He and his friend 27-year-old Jessie Mugford were able to get out of the way of the snow slide, but Bryan Harlow and Todd Byington were not so lucky.

"Honestly we're concerned about getting ourselves out of the way, and then also concerned about the guys that we knew that couldn't get out of the way," said Mugford.

Schwegel told dispatch that they heard Byington yelling and found him with only his face sticking out of the snow. They dug him up and used his beacon to find Harlow, but after digging past four to six feet of snow to get to Harlow, they saw that he wasn't breathing. CPR didn't work.

Kalispell's ALERT helicopter got there first, but couldn't find a place to land. Two Bear Air's Air-One helicopter got there next and managed to vertically lift Harlow out of the slide. The other three rode their snowmobiles out with no serious injuries.

"The avalanche wasn't snowmobile triggered or human created, none of our machines were even running at the point in time," said Mugford.

In an initial report, the Flathead Avalanche Center is calling this "remotely snowmobile triggered." That means a weak layer beneath them could have failed without anyone realizing it, then travel through the snow pack up to the a steeper part of the ridge, thus causing the snow to slide.

Mugford says he and his friends had snowmobiled here before, about a month ago, and knew the risks. He blames all the new snow that had just fallen for the tragedy. According to Mugford, both sides of the mountain slid and was more than a quarter of a mile wide. Mostly, he says, this is just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Unfortunately, this time it didn't work out," said Mugford.

"They were taking precautions," said Roby Bowe, the Lincoln County Sheriff, "They knew the avalanche danger was high."

Experts could not do an on-site investigation because of the high avalanche risk. Based off of the aerial view from the Air-One helicopter, the Flathead Avalanche Center says this snow slide was big enough that it could have destroyed a car.

The most recent advisory from the Flathead Avalanche Center puts the avalanche risk at considerable.

They will have an updated reported Wednesday, which you can find here.

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