Body of 1 Washington state avalanche victim recovered

LEAVENWORTH, Wash. (AP) — The body of one of three climbers killed in an avalanche on Washington state’s Colchuck Peak last weekend was recovered Friday, authorities said.

The body of 54-year-old Seong Cho, a Korean citizen residing in West Hartford, Connecticut, was recovered from the base of Colchuck Peak, the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.

Friday was the first day weather conditions allowed a Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office helicopter rescue team to operate. The team found Cho’s body under a thin layer of snow at the GPS coordinates provided by a member of the climbing party, the post said. The body was turned over to the Chelan County Coroner’s Office.

The crew made additional search attempts for the remaining two climbers — Jeannie Lee, a 60-year-old woman from New York, and Yun Park, a 66-year-old man from New Jersey — but they were not located, authorities said.

Part of the search included the use of a RECCO device mounted on a cable under the helicopter, which can detect chips sewn into some outdoor gear and help provide the location of someone buried under avalanche debris.

Ground teams will not be deployed to the area until conditions are safe, sheriff's officials said.

Avalanche experts tried to reach the scene on Wednesday, but failed to make it all the way due to the risk of further slides. They said at least 20 inches (51 centimeters) of snow had fallen in the area. It was too cloudy Thursday for the sheriff’s office to send a helicopter to the site, authorities said.

The climbers were killed Sunday as they ascended a steep, snow-packed gulley on the 8,705-foot (2,653-meter) Colchuck Peak, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) east of Seattle. Another member of their party was caught up in the slide, but had minor injuries and was able to hike back down.

The avalanche was the the deadliest in the U.S. since four backcountry skiers were killed in Utah two years ago.