Remains found of Minnesota native buried in Tetons avalanche
ST. PAUL After a day of skiing and climbing, a Minnesota native and his travel companion were bundled into their sleeping bags and resting in their tent when an avalanche buried them in about 15 feet of snow April 16 in the mountains of Grand Tet...
After a day of skiing and climbing, a Minnesota native and his travel companion were bundled into their sleeping bags and resting in their tent when an avalanche buried them in about 15 feet of snow April 16 in the mountains of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
A six-day search concluded Sunday when rescue workers with the National Park Service said they uncovered the bodies of Greg Seftick, who grew up in Afton, Minn., and was living in Columbia Falls, Mont., and Walker Kuhl of Salt Lake City. Seftick, an emergency room doctor, was 31. Kuhl, who worked for the U.S. Treasury Department, was 27.
Family friend David Francis spoke on behalf of Seftick's parents, Dan and Sue Seftick, who traveled from Afton to Wyoming to be near the search efforts.
"They've been dealing with uncertainty and hope for so many days now," Francis said. "The family is in the depths of sorrow."
Greg Seftick and Kuhl were last seen alive near Garnet Canyon in the east side of the Tetons on the afternoon before the avalanche. They were scheduled to return the next day, a Sunday, and were reported missing Monday. By Wednesday, there were no leads in the search.
Seftick and Kuhl told the park backcountry office they originally planned to climb Grand Teton, the highest peak in the Tetons at 13,770 feet, but settled for Teepe Pillar at 12,266 feet because of unfavorable weather, a park service spokeswoman told the Pioneer Press earlier this week.
They set up camp near a large boulder between the Platforms and the Meadows of Garnet Canyon, and the avalanche came off the north face of Nez Perce Peak, the park service said. The search took six days, the park service said, because of "stormy weather, new snowfall and ongoing concerns about avalanche danger for rescue teams."
Seftick and Kuhl were carrying "avalanche beacons and appropriate gear with them" on their expedition into the Teton Range, the park service said. The beacons began transmitting when they were buried, the park service said.
A breakthrough in the search came Saturday night when the rescue team probed for beacon transmissions and received a response at about 7 p.m. Rescuers were dropped from helicopters to the spot and uncovered 5 feet of the dense snowpack before they needed to be evacuated because of nightfall, the park service said. The rescuers resumed the search Sunday.
The Francis family has been in this tragic position before, so they know what the Sefticks are going through. David Francis and his wife lost their son, Jon Francis, in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains in 2006.
The Jon Francis Foundation was created to help families who lose children in the wilderness and to help keep search efforts afloat.
Sometimes authorities quit searches too early, Francis said, but he commended the efforts of the National Park Service in this case.
"They worked this problem hard," he said. "They went out there on Easter Sunday."
Francis' daughter, Jocelyn Francis Plass, drove from her Idaho home to provide support to the Sefticks.
"She wanted to wrap her arms around Daniel and Sue," David Francis said.
Before the Sefticks headed west, Francis gave them advice and checklists on how to help with the search and cope with the stress and uncertainty.
"Now, they are in deep despair," Daniel Francis said, "and are facing the fact that their son died."
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.