Volume 92, Issue 79

Wednesday, February 17, 1998


Federal budget fails to address education

Hailing a safety solution

U of T gets movie blues

Western alumnus feared dead after avalanche

Faculty vote against open voting rights

Washing hope into disease

Safety issues spring up before break

Western alumnus feared dead after avalanche

By Jamie Lynn
Gazette Staff

A 25-year-old alumnus may be dead after an avalanche swept through an area bordering on Mt. Baker Ski Area, approximately 70 kilometres east of Bellingham, Washington.

Shawn Riches, a former president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, was skiing in a United States Forest Service wilderness area last Sunday when an avalanche occurred at approximately 12:30 p.m., said Gwyn Howat, a spokesperson for Mt. Baker.

She said the area where Riches was skiing is a marked and governmentally sanctioned area in which minimal human contact is allowed and no avalanche control is permitted. While the public has the right to enter this area, they are warned by large signs along the way that the area is unpatrolled and they are entering at their own risk.

Howat said the avalanche blew down the mountain into the valley for almost a mile at speeds reaching 200 miles an hour and Riches was caught up in a debris zone which was up to 300 feet wide and 20 feet deep. The body of Justin Parker, a 19-year-old snowboarder from Parkland, Wash., was recovered Sunday but Riches' body remains missing.

Sgt. Larry Flynn of the Whatcom County sheriff's department said search crews were in the area for several hours Sunday afternoon but the search is on hold indefinitely due to fear of more avalanche activity.

"If we thought there was any chance he was alive we'd be in there.

"Our staff and the people from the ski area are going to sit down and see what we can do to try and stop these people from going into these situations where they're putting themselves and others at risk," Flynn said.

Riches' step-mother Carol Riches said Sean had been in British Columbia articling as a chartered account with KPMG Inc.. He and his friends decided to go skiing in Washington on their day off.

"He has always been a very quiet, confident and self-assured person who was very bright," Carol said. "He was a very good athlete, an excellent skier and was well liked by his friends. He had it all."

Western President Paul Davenport expressed Western's condolences for Riches and his family. "For all who knew and loved him this is a tragic event. We feel tremendous sadness for anyone who is cut off in the prime years of his life."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999