Released By: Sergeant Jason Wall
Release Date: March 16, 2023
Location: Paulina Peak, Newberry National Volcanic Monument
Snowboarder #1: Hefflefinger, Erik Maxim 33-year-old male, Bend Oregon, deceased.
Skier #1: Minsker, Ian, 44-year-old male, Bend, Oregon
Skier #2: Delashmutt, Ari, 34-year-old male, Bend, Oregon
On March 15, 2023, at 12:48 pm, The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (SAR) unit was dispatched to a report of an avalanche at Newberry National Volcanic Monument, Paulina Peak.
The reporting party, the International Emergency Coordination Response Center (IERCC) advised Deschutes County 911 they had received an SOS alarm from a device and provided GPS coordinates for the location of the device.
The IERCC coordinates search and rescue services initiated by SOS alerts received from a supported device with an active satellite, cellular or other communication network service plan.
At 12:54 pm, the IERCC received a second message from the device stating there had been an avalanche, a subject was not breathing, and that CPR was in progress.
The subject caught in the avalanche was later determined to be Erik Hefflefinger, a Bend resident. According to the friends/skiers on scene they witnessed the avalanche from below and saw Hefflefinger being carried over a cliff band by the avalanche debris. Hefflefinger was located by his friends who was not buried by the avalanche, and immediately started lifesaving efforts.
The Oregon State Police responded to the area, however, were not able to make it to the scene due to snow conditions. Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office SAR volunteers were transported by Airlink to the area and reached Hefflefinger at 4:00 pm. The 3 SAR volunteers, 2 of which are Advanced Life Support trained, began life saving measures after discovering a faint pulse on Hefflefinger.
At 5:00 pm, life saving measures were discontinued as it was determined Hefflefinger was beyond help. SAR volunteers assisted with the transportation of Hefflefinger to the 10-mile snow park, where he was released to the funeral home.
All 3 subjects were equipped with the proper safety equipment to include avalanche safety equipment.
As a result of the investigation, it was determined Hefflefinger possibly hit a tree while caught in the avalanche debris. The 3 subjects had utilized snowmobiles to approach the area below the visitors center and made a final approach on skis/snowboard.
Both Delashmutt and Minsker had already began their decent when Hefflefinger was caught up in the avalanche. Delashmutt and Minsker traversed the slope to “skiers right” and Hefflefinger traversed the slope to “skiers left”. It is not believed the avalanche was trigger by the first two subjects down the slope.
In 2023, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office has responded to two avalanche fatalities, prior to these tragedies it has been 9 years since a fatality has been recorded directly due to an avalanche (information from avalanche.org).
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office would like to remind everyone recreating in the backcountry to ensure that you have the proper equipment and training.
The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is a full-service agency that oversees the adult jail, provides patrol, criminal investigations, civil process and search and rescue operations. Special units include SWAT, Street Crimes, Marine Patrol, ATV Patrol, Forest Patrol, along with six K9 teams. Founded in 1916 and today led by your duly elected Sheriff L. Shane Nelson, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office serves 210,000 residents in Deschutes County. The agency has 265 authorized and funded personnel, which includes 195 sworn employees who provide services to the 3,055 square miles of Deschutes County.