The Mavericks boys’ team had just beaten Shining Mountain High School to qualify for the state tournament. The girls were about to play their game against Belleview Christian (a game the Lady Mavs won to move on to state for a second year in a row.)
“It really put things in perspective,” said Norwood Schools Superintendent Dave Crews on Tuesday. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster.”
The community, including the players, learned that the search for Carothers had been suspended due to darkness Saturday night. Then, home from the tournament on Sunday, at a time they should have been celebrating, they learned that Carothers’ body had been recovered and was making its way home.
Now, after a short week of grieving, the teams are off again to Denver for title games this weekend.
“We held a candlelight vigil on Sunday night in the school parking lot,” said Crews, whose daughter is on the basketball team at this tightknit school of 250 students, K-12. “It was a chance for the kids to be with each other before they came to school Monday morning. To share the sadness, and the anger. The family was there. On Monday we had counselors at the school, and a couple of pastors came, just to be around for the kids. We set up a place for the students to go, to meet and talk, and get through it. One of the pastors talked about the positives. Garrett made a lot of people smile. And we need to acknowledge that. And that this too is a piece of life.”
Carothers, who lived in Redvale west of Norwood with his parents, Charles and Cindy, was on the outing with his cousin, also a junior at Norwood HS, his uncle Rick and another man from Nucla. The four started from Gateway, Colo., and toured up the summer road about 35 miles into Beaver Basin, in the aspen and evergreens of the La Sals. There were no previous snowmobile tracks on the road. The snow was deep and getting deeper the higher they went. According to the report filed by Max Forgensi, La Sals observer for the Utah Avalanche Center who investigated the accident, the more experienced riders had to stop repeatedly to help the others dig their machines out of the powder.
Some time before 10:30 a.m., the group decided to turn back, but the summer road at that point was too narrow for them to turn around. One of the men remembered an opening up ahead, a “meadow” he called it, where they could get the machines headed back downhill. The first three riders had crossed the opening (actually a part of the avalanche path) when the slide released 1,000 vertical above them. The fourth rider, Garrett Carothers, was swept over the road with his machine into the steep gully below. Rescuers estimated as much as 30 feet of avalanche debris filled the gully bottom.
According to Forgensi’s report, the slide ran at about 10:30 a.m. on a sunny SE aspect from about 10,200 feet elevation. It was a soft slab between 1 and 4 feet deep at the crown, 700 feet wide and ran about 1,000 vertical feet. It was unclear whether the snowmobilers triggered the avalanche from below.
Untouched by the avalanche, the others searched the debris for any sign of Garrett. They probed likely spots and at one point thought they had a positive strike and began digging. They had been working for about an hour and 45 minutes – their hole was about six feet deep – when, Forgensi wrote, they “realized they were outmatched to find their companion.” So, they drove back down the road to John Brown’s Canyon in search of a cell signal.
The Grand County (Ut.) Search and Rescue received a call from the surviving party at about 2 p.m. An initial group of rescuers was helicoptered into the site and began a more extensive, but fruitless, search. Finally, someone probed inside the hole the Carotherses had begun and got a positive strike on Garrett’s machine. But it was almost dark, and the search had to be suspended for the night.
A much larger group, including volunteers from Grand County and Mesa County (Colo.) SAR teams, made its way back in on Sunday morning. By noon Carothers’ body had been recovered, buried 12 feet deep and about five feet from his snowmobile.
Forgensi did a fracture-line profile to determine the mechanics of the slide. He found the newest layer of snow was a soft slab “deposited on a NW wind” as the recent storm left the area. And he found a faceted weak layer on top of a pencil-hard sun crust. This was the failure plane at the crown line, the bed surface on which the snow began to move. The sliding snow then “stepped down” to the ground; the force of the first collapse in the upper layers caused the full depth of the snowpack to fracture and move down the path.
Together the Carotherses and the school are planning a memorial service for Garrett at the Norwood school on Monday, March 12, at 2 p.m. Superintendent Crews said the family “wanted it then so Garrett’s friends can all come.”
Meanwhile, his friends on the basketball teams will be playing their hearts out on the Front Range.
PUBLISHED MARCH 5, 2012
Snowmobiler Caught in Utah’s La Sal Mountains
SAN MIGUEL COUNTY – Eighteen-year-old Garrett Carothers of Redvale was buried and killed Saturday, March 3, in an avalanche in the La Sal Mountains of eastern Utah, according to a statement from Utah's Grand County Sheriff's Department.
Carothers, a senior at Norwood High School, was on a snowmobile tour with three friends. His is the 24th avalanche death in the U.S. this winter.
The four started from Gateway, Colo., and toured up the summer road into Beaver Basin in the La Sals. Snow was deep, and the group had decided to turn around when the avalanche struck, catching Carothers, the fourth in line, and burying him under 12 feet of debris.
According to Max Forgensi, Las Sals observer for the Utah Avalanche Center, the slide ran at about 10:30 a.m. on a sunny SE aspect from about 10,200 feet elevation. It was a soft slab between 1 and 4 feet deep at the crown line, 700 feet wide, and ran about 1,000 vertical feet. It was unclear whether the snowmobilers triggered the avalanche from below.
The others in the party worked for nearly two hours to locate their companion before retreating to find cell service. An initial group of rescuers was helicoptered into the site some time after 2 p.m. Saturday, and had a probe strike on the victim’s snow machine, but had to retreat as darkness set in. A much larger group made its way back in on Sunday morning when Carothers’ body was recovered, about three feet from his machine.
Carothers was a student at Norwood High School, which, on Monday, March 5, was “in counseling mode,” according to a message from the school’s front office.