4 backcountry skiers killed in Utah avalanche

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MILLCREEK, Utah (ABC4) — Four skiers killed in a Utah avalanche over the weekend have been recovered and identified.

The Unified Police Department confirmed that the skiers were 29-year-old Sarah Moughamian of Sandy, Utah, and 26-year-old Louis Holian, 26-year-old Stephanie Hopkins and 23-year-old Thomas Louis Steinbrecher, all of Salt Lake City. They were recovered Sunday.

“Our hearts go out to loved ones of the skiers lost in Saturday’s avalanche,” said Sheriff Rosie Rivera.

On Saturday at 11:40 a.m., the UPD was notified of an avalanche in the Wilson Glade area of Millcreek Canyon. Five buried skiers were initially reported, and Salt Lake County Search and Rescue units both hiked and were hoisted into the area.

“We now know that there were two groups skiing in the area when the avalanche was triggered, a group of five skiers and a group of three skiers,” UPD officials said. “The avalanche swept all eight away.”

Officials said four skiers were able to dig themselves and others out. The survivors, all males aged 23-38, were rescued via helicopter. None of the survivors had life-threatening injuries and they were not hospitalized. However, due to unstable conditions, efforts to recover the four other skiers were resumed Sunday morning.

Officials said all eight skiers had the necessary equipment for the conditions.

Unified Police Department Sgt. Melody Cutler said nobody should have been on the backcountry Saturday as avalanche risk was extremely high.

“I’m not sure if it’s the thrill or what it is, but it is really important to pay attention to those things,” said Cutler. “There have been advisories out recently of very high avalanche danger. That exists. The current conditions and this is a very unfortunate circumstance that with these conditions and it actually happened and resulted in lives being lost.”

After the victims of Saturday’s avalanche were identified, Gov. Spencer J. Cox issued the following statement:

“The tragedy in Millcreek Canyon which claimed the lives of four young Utahns has shaken and saddened all of us. Abby and I send our deepest condolences and prayers to the families of Sarah Moughamian, Louis Holian, Stephanie Hopkins, and Thomas Louis Steinbrecher during this heartbreaking time. We also extend our sympathies to their companions who escaped harm and thank all of the brave individuals involved in the recovery efforts.”

Saturday’s fatal avalanche was Utah’s third of the year. Last month, two men died after being buried in Utah’s avalanches.

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