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Idaho backcountry avalanche kills physician from Ketchum

Dr. Terry O'Connor
Posted at 12:01 PM, May 13, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 14:54:02-04

KETCHUM, Idaho — 48-year-old Dr. Terrence "Terry" O'Connor, a physician with St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center in Ketchum, was killed in an avalanche in the Idaho backcountry on Friday, May 10.

The avalanche occurred Friday when O'Connor and another experienced backcountry skier were traveling on Donaldson Peak in Idaho's Lost River Range, the Sawtooth Avalanche Center said.

The slope collapse was triggered while the skiers climbed down to where the pair were going to ski. O'Connor got caught in a small avalanche, which set off a second larger avalanche.

Dr. Terry O'Connor

The second skier used a satellite communication device to call for help, and then a rescue transceiver and probe pole to locate O'Connor through about five feet (1.5 meters) of snow.

She performed CPR on the doctor after digging him out with a shovel. Search and rescue teams evacuated him, but he didn't survive.

Groups from around the state have been sending their condolences to Dr. O'Connor's family following the tragic event.

The fatality brings this winter’s tally of avalanche deaths in the U.S. to 16, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. An average of 30 people die in avalanches each year in the U.S.

Avalanche safety specialists say their job has become more difficult in recent years as climate change brings extreme weather. Rising numbers of skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers have also been visiting backcountry areas since the COVID-19 pandemic.