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Three people dead in Washington state avalanche

Three skiers are dead and two skiers have been found after an avalanche struck near a popular resort in Seattle.

February 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Three skiers are dead after an avalanche Sunday near a popular ski resort in Washington state.

There were five skiers total involved in the avalanche. ESPN Freeskiing editor Megan Michelson and pro skier Elyse Saugstad were among the group, acoording to ESPN.

Saugstad was saved by a safety airbag she delpoyed from her backpack, according to ESPN.

The five were among three groups of skiers making their way through 1 1/2 feet of fresh snow on the back side of Stevens Pass when the avalanche hit.

All were buried to some extent, but the men who died were swept approximately 1,500 feet down a chute in the Tunnel Creek Canyon area, King County Sheriff's Sgt. Katie Larson said.

Most of the other skiers, all well-equipped, were able to free themselves and rushed to dig out the victims. They performed CPR on the three men to no avail, Larson said.

The ski resort reported 19 inches of snow fell just in the last 24 hours. There is concern that warmer weather could loosen surface snow and trigger another avalanche.

The King County Sheriff's Office first received word about the avalanche just after noon, according to Sgt. Cindi West. She initially reported two people were dead but later confirmed a third death.

The deaths occurred in an out-of-bounds area near the resort, she said. Search and rescue crews and other emergency responders were at the scene.

Also Sunday, West said a snowboarder was killed in a separate incident at the Alpental ski area east of Seattle. The snowboarder went over a cliff. No other details were available.

Stevens Pass, an 80-mile drive from Seattle, is one of the most popular outdoor recreation areas in the state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.