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Officials identify 4 killed in Utah avalanche

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MILLCREEK, Utah (KSL.com) — Officials on Sunday identified the four skiers who were killed in an avalanche in Millcreek Canyon Saturday.

Louis Holian, 26, Stephanie Hopkins, 26, and Thomas Louis Steinbrecher, 23, were all Salt Lake City residents. Sarah Moughamian, age 29, was from Sandy.

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

According to Unified police, officials were notified about the avalanche in the Wilson Glade area about 11:40 a.m. The Utah Avalanche Center said Saturday the avalanche was “unintentionally triggered” at 9,300 feet.

Initial reports said five skiers were buried. KSL.com reports search and rescue teams either hiked or were hoisted to the area to begin the operation.

Officials later discovered the avalanche had caught up two different groups — a party of five skiers and one party of three. All eight were buried, but four survivors were able to dig themselves out and dig out the others.

The survivors were all males between ages 23 and 38, officials wrote. They were hoisted off the mountain via helicopter; none had life-threatening injuries or required hospitalization.

Because of “unstable conditions,” the UPD said, rescue operations for the four deceased skiers extended into Sunday morning. The four victims were all recovered Sunday afternoon after three trips up the canyon.

The National Weather Service and Utah Avalanche Center warned of high avalanche danger over the weekend, saying there had been “large natural avalanches” overnight into Saturday.

Gov. Spencer Cox advised Utahns to “please exercise extreme caution” with the high avalanche danger.

“This is a terrible tragedy and our prayers go out to the victims and families involved,” Cox tweeted. “We are grateful to the first responders and others who engaged in this rescue and recovery effort.”

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson grieved with the news. “We deeply mourn the loss of life due to this devastating incident,” she said.

According to the UPD, agencies that assisted on the rescue and recovery included Salt Lake County Search and Rescue, Wasatch Backcountry Rescue, Intermountain Life Flight, Unified Fire Authority, the Utah Department of Public Safety, Utah State Fire Marshal, U.S. Forest Service, and the Brighton, Solitude and Alta ski resorts.

There were two fatal avalanches in Summit County in January, including one last weekend. Saturday’s was reportedly the deadliest Utah avalanche since 1992.

Contributing: Garna Mejia, KSL TV

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