Jesse Tol 04-07-08

Valdez man killed in avalanche
THOMPSON PASS: Rescuers couldn't revive snowboarder.

By JAMES HALPIN,, Published: April 8th, 2008

An extreme skier and snowboarder died Monday after an avalanche swept down on him in Thompson Pass near Valdez, according to Alaska State Troopers.

Jesse Tol, 31, of Valdez, was killed when an avalanche buried him under about five feet of snow in the pass, near Mile 28.5 on the Richardson Highway, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Tol and his father, John Tol, were going up the mountain by snowmachine so Jesse could snowboard down when the slide hit, according to the Valdez Fire Department. Tol's father was reportedly buried as well but was not hurt, Peters said.

"When the slide hit, it buried Jesse," Peters said. "Apparently he had gotten off the snowmachine to look at the snow (conditions)."

The slide happened at about 1 p.m., but officials got a call from a skier using a satellite phone at about 1:45 p.m., said Capt. Darrell Banner with the fire department. By the time rescuers could dig Tol out and airlift him down to medics, almost two hours had elapsed, he said.

The slide was 500 to 700 feet long and about 200 yards wide, Peters said.

"So it was a fairly small avalanche, but it did a lot of damage," she said.

The area was unsafe, having seen a number of smaller avalanches in recent days, said fire chief George Keeney. Tol had an emergency locator beacon, and his father and some bystanders were able to dig him out and perform CPR on him for about two hours, Keeney said.

A chopper from Valdez Heli Camps flew to the scene and transported Tol down as witnesses and crew members continued to perform CPR, Peters said. The company did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

Medics pronounced Tol dead on the way to the Providence Valdez Medical Center, Peters said.

Tol has been a competitor in extreme skiing events for at least 10 years. He was in a skiing video years ago called "The Paradox," which featured him and others skiing the slopes near Valdez, said Jeremy Robida, a 31-year-old Valdez skier.

"Valdez is a small town, and everybody just kind of knows that name," Robida said of Tol. "I would imagine the town's going to be feeling this for a while."

The circumstances surrounding the slide were still under investigation late Monday.

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