Mount Hood Snowboarder Buried Alive After Ice Tunnel Collapses

A Mount Hood snowboarder is presumed dead after an ice tunnel he was traveling through collapsed Saturday, burying him alive.

The man was identified as 25-year-old Collin Backowski of Pines, Colorado. He was with a group of friends at Mount Hood on Saturday looking for a place to snowboard when he came across an ice tunnel formed when melting snow had frozen.

But as he traveled inside the tunnel, the structure began to collapse and the Mount Hood snowboarder was trapped beneath a piece of ice close to 40 feet long. Rescuers tried to dig Backowski free using hand tools, but the ice was too hard and too thick for them to break through. They called off the rescue efforts at close to 11 pm on Saturday.

A larger rescue effort started on Sunday morning that came with heavier machinery, including chainsaws, but the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office said the man was buried deep beneath ice and snow and the outlook was not good.

“This is clearly not a good-looking situation when it comes to survivability,” said Sgt. Pete Hughes, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.

Backowski was with five other snowboarders, all in their 20s, but the others managed to escape unhurt. Hughes said he wasn’t quite sure Backowski was buried while the others managed to stay safe.

“It trapped one person in the tunnel, (but) we’re not sure if he was the last one out or it just caught him,” Hughes said. “It sounds like there’s a significant amount of ice and snow that fell.”

An airplane was sent to survey the area, and searchers returning to the mountain on Sunday are using a picture taken by one of the Mount Hood snowboarders to better determine where to look.

But the search for Backowski has more obstacles on Sunday. Warm temperatures melted much of the snow on the mountain, making it more difficult for them to reach him.

The area where the Mount Hood snowboarder was buried is on White River Glacier, which begins close to 6,000 feet up the mountain’s south side.