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Search for buried snowboarders called off

Three still missing after avalanche near Sundance, Utah

Brothers Jason, left, and Hyrum Durtschi, both of Pleasant Grove, Utah, survived Friday's avalanche in the Aspen Grove area.

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Accidents (General)
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(CNN) -- The search for three snowboarders missing after an avalanche outside Sundance, Utah, was called off Saturday afternoon because of poor weather conditions.

The snowboarders have not been heard from since the avalanche swept down a cliff in the Aspen Grove area Friday afternoon. Several other people on the mountain managed to dig themselves out or were helped out by people who saw them get buried, Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy said.

Tracy said Friday evening that the expectations were low for finding the snowboarders alive.

"It's not probable at this time," he said.

None of the missing people carried avalanche equipment like radio transmitters, shovels or probe poles that could help locate them, he said.

Those missing are 20-year-old Rod Newberry, 18-year-old Adam Merz and 19-year-old Mike Hebert. They were among a group of five Utah County friends snowboarding at the time of the avalanche. The other two managed to get out.

The search-and-rescue effort -- which involved about 100 people -- was suspended because of concerns of possible snow slides but will resume Sunday morning at dawn if the weather permits, Tracy said.

The three snow slides began about 4:30 p.m. Friday (6:30 p.m. ET) in the Robert's Horn Chute area, a popular area for snowboarders, he said. The avalanche covered an area the width of three city blocks and a half-mile long with as much as 14 feet of snow, he said.

He said explosions were set off Saturday morning to force that snow to slide downward, allowing searchers to resume their work.

The search was time-consuming, requiring searchers to line up shoulder-to-shoulder in a grid area, and place a probe into the snow about every foot, the sheriff said.

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