Police are investigating whether a man found dead under four feet of snow on New York’s Mount Colden last week was caught in an avalanche.
On March 16, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Forest Rangers responded to a call for assistance searching for 63-year-old hiker Thomas Howard. His car was located in the Adirondak Loj parking lot with the trail register entry on March 11, stating his destination of Mount Colden via the Trap Dike with an expected return of March 13.
In partnership with New York State Police Aviation, DEC Forest Rangers deployed air, sled, and foot operations for a multi-day search. They were later joined by NY State Police Investigators, DEC Emergency Management, New York State Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services (NYSDHSES), and Trained Rescue Climbers on March 16 and 17, with no result.
Unfortunately, on Friday, March 18, a Forest Ranger and volunteer rescuer located the hiker, deceased in the notorious Trap Dike. Twenty-seven Rangers worked tirelessly on this recovery mission over three days.
DEC said about 48 inches of snow covered the hiker’s body and that National Avalanche Center experts pointed to evidence suggesting an avalanche had occurred at the site.
“However, without an eyewitness, and due to changing snow conditions, it is impossible to say for certain if the snow accumulation was from an avalanche or drifted snow.”
The New York State Police investigation into the cause of death is ongoing, so this is not yet considered an avalanche death.