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Denali National Park staff member killed in avalanche he started, officials say


A Denali National Park and Preserve staff member was killed in an avalanche he triggered while skiing in the Alaskan wilderness that is home to the nation’s tallest peak, officials said Friday. responsible.

Eric Walter was found dead Thursday after rescuers rushed to the general area of ​​his last location, according to the National Park Service.

This undated photo released by Denali National Park and Preserve shows employee Eric Walter, who died when he was caught in an avalanche while skiing on a north-facing slope near Mile 10 on Park Road on Thursday 4 May 2023, in Denali Park, Alaska.  Walter provided radio security dispatch and support services for National Park Service operations throughout Alaska.
Denali National Park and Preserve employee Eric Walter in an undated image.Denali National Park and Preserve/NPS Photo via AP

Park rangers found his vehicle parked on Denali’s main road, he said. Then they spotted signs of Walter’s gear in the middle of an avalanche debris field.

“Two skis, one vertical, one laying flat on the surface, along with an orange bag were observed in a debris field in the avalanche zone,” the park service said.

Rangers brought survival gear used to rescue avalanche survivors, the park service said. A park helicopter was overhead.

The park service said he was skiing alone on the unnamed, north-facing slope south of Jenny Creek when he triggered an avalanche.

A witness reported the avalanche to employees at the nearby park kennel, and a search and rescue operation was launched, the park service said.

Snow depths in adjacent Denali State Park were about 3 to 4 feet Monday, Alaskan parks officials said. “With recently warmer weather, be careful when traveling in avalanche terrain,” the state’s Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation said in the conditions report.

Part of Walter’s job was to guide others around the 6.1 million acre federal park, help maintain its communications, and help visitors and workers stay safe, the National Park Service park.

The park’s main attraction is its namesake mountain, which rises to 20,310 feet.

“Eric was a highly valued member of the Alaska Regional Communications Center (Denali Dispatch) and was known throughout the Alaska region for providing radio security support and dispatch services for National Operations Park Service across Alaska,” the park service said.

Todd Miyazawa contributed.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.