April 6, 2006

Three ski patrol members killed at Calif. resort

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Three members of the Mammoth
Mountain ski patrol were killed on Thursday when the snow
around a natural gas vent they were fencing off collapsed and
sent the crew tumbling 21 feet into the opening.

One member of the ski patrol survived the accident that
occurred as the team was inspecting the mountain after heavy
storms that have brought more than six feet of snow since the
beginning of the month, the ski resort said in a statement.

Mammoth officials said they would provide further
information after the victims' families were notified.

The deaths come after winter storms have dumped record
amounts of snow on California resorts. Mammoth, located in the
Sierra Nevada range about 260 miles southeast of San Francisco,
broke its all-time snowfall record of 51.4 feet on April 4.

During the past 10 years about 38 people have died each
season skiing or snowboarding in the United States, according
to the National Ski Areas Association.

Earlier this year, five skiers were also killed on or near
Mammoth in a one-week span. The deaths included three
accidents, a heart attack and an avalanche fatality.