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Searchers in Utah find body; 4 others feared buried in slide

SALT LAKE CITY -- Search teams digging through tons of snow yesterday found the body of one of five people feared buried by a powerful avalanche in an area that skiers had been warned to avoid.

The victim was identified as Shane Maixner, 27, of Sandpoint, Idaho. His body was found under 4 feet of snow after trained dogs alerted the teams searching the area of Friday's slide, Summit County Sheriff Dave Edmunds said at a news conference.

''If anybody could have survived, it would have been Shane," his father, Joel Maixner, said from his North Dakota home.

''He was in excellent condition. But the sheriff told me his head and chest were slammed into a tree. He died without a fight."

Seven people have been killed in Utah avalanches this winter, more than any year since the state started keeping records in 1951. It is still relatively early in the season.

Edmunds said other clothing, sweat shirts and gloves, was discovered yesterday, possibly indicating more victims.

Several eyewitnesses claimed they saw multiple people buried in the avalanche near Park City, about 20 miles east of Salt Lake City. But Maixner was the only one who had been identified even before his body was found; a friend told a 911 dispatcher he saw him caught by the cascading mass of snow.

The amount of snow carried down the mountain by Friday's slide, up to 30 feet deep at some points, meant authorities had to tally potential victims by matching eyewitness descriptions of the avalanche to a list of skiers thought to be in the area at the time.

More than 150 rescue workers and dogs had resumed the search at sunrise yesterday in an out-of-bounds area near The Canyons resort that had been marked with skull-and-crossbones warning signs because of the avalanche danger. An all-day search Saturday had turned up no trace of the missing people.

If yesterday's sweep failed to find any additional bodies, authorities planned to bring in machines to take away layers of snow, Edmunds said. They also planned to use ground-penetrating radar today.

The Wasatch mountain range has had two weeks of wet, heavy snow that created an extreme risk of avalanches, especially in the backcountry.

Snow fell from Ohio to the Northeast yesterday, while large portions of the Pacific Northwest received snow and freezing rain.

The Plains and Upper Midwest were severely cold, with temperatures dipping below minus 20 degrees in parts of the Dakotas and Minnesota.

Lincoln, Neb., reported a low of minus 17 degrees.

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