18-year-old Minnesota snowmobiler dies in Montana avalanche


A south-central Minnesota 18-year-old snowmobiler was killed in an avalanche in Montana Tuesday afternoon, authorities there say.

Yellowstone National Park dispatch officials got a call about a buried snowmobiler in the Daisy Pass/Crowne Butte area near Cooke City, close to the Montana-Wyoming border, at about 4 p.m., according to the Park County, Montana, Sheriff's Department in a statement posted by WTVM TV in Montana.

Five members of the Park County search and rescue team responded and began "probing operations" within about 15 minutes. They found the body of the teen buried in about 6 feet of snow at about 5:10 p.m. Rescuers performed CPR but to no avail.

The snowmobiler has been identified as Zach Joseph Junkermeier, of Lake Lillian, Minnesota, which is about 85 miles west of Minneapolis.

The 18-year-old was with a group of six other friends about halfway up a slope when an avalanche that started near the peak of Crowne Butte overtook him, county authorities said. One other from the group received minor injuries when the avalanche knocked him from his snowmobile and into some trees. Officials considered it a relatively large avalanche, roughly 500 feet wide, 600 feet long and up to 20 feet deep.

The area is in the Gallatin National Forest, which is part of the Greater Yellowstone Area.

Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center officials were planning to investigate further on Wednesday. The center has two photos from the scene. The center notes that there have been five avalanche fatalities in Montana this year, four of them in the last 18 days.

It's been a deadly year for snowmobilers inside the state of Minnesota, with at least 14 fatalities reported, compared to eight last year.

It's also been a year of several dramatic rescues of Minnesota snowmobilers, including six friends who got stranded in the Wyoming wilderness, and a 40-year-old father and his 19-year-old son who vanished in a Michigan blizzard.

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