Mansfield Man Killed In New Mexico Avalanche

Source: WBZ-TV/YouTube

MANSFIELD, MA (WBZ-AM/AP/TTWN) —  A man from Mansfield is dead after an avalanche in New Mexico.

Matt Zongehetti, 26, of Mansfield , has been identified as a victim of an avalanche in Taos, NM on Wednesday. 

His family says that Matt was on an annual ski trip with his father who was at the base of the mountain when the avalanche struck.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson says he participated in the heartbreaking search.

"People were crying up there, and I was one of those," Johnson said."There were 200 people up there with search poles, it was everybody's best friend that they were searching for," he said. 

Another man was pulled from the snow and given CPR. He's now in critical condition.

The avalanche near the highest peak of Taos Ski Valley initially spurred fears among authorities that more victims might be buried on the mountain. However, witnesses said they had not seen any other people on the slope when the slide began.

The resort planned an investigation to determine what triggered the avalanche.

The avalanche struck a stretch of the mountain known as the K3 chute, where expert skiers who ride a lift to Kachina Peak can dart down a partially rock-lined run.

In a statement, Taos Ski Valley said avalanche mitigation work had been taking place throughout the season and just hours earlier in the area where the avalanche occurred.

Taos Ski Valley is located 124 miles (151 kilometers) northeast of Albuquerque.

Its terrain covers a 1,200-acre (5-square-kilometer) area of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. Kachina Peak is a nearly 12,500-foot (3,810-meter) summit and has one the highest chairlifts in North America.

A handful of deadly avalanches have occurred in Taos Ski Valley over the past 50 years some distance from the main trails.

The most recent death was in 1996, when a popular restaurant owner in Taos was killed while back-country skiing in Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area, outside Taos Ski Valley, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

The Associated Press and TTWN Contributed To This Report

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