Idaho doctor dead in backcountry skiing avalanche

A prominent Idaho physician was killed in a backcountry skiing accident Friday, authorities announced. Courtesy of Sawtooth Avalanche Center.

May 12 (UPI) -- An Idaho physician is dead after triggering an avalanche while skiing in the Donaldson Peak in Idaho's Lost River Range backcountry Friday, authorities at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center have reported.

The skier was identified as Dr. Terrence "Terry" O'Connor, the Idaho Mountain Express reported.

The Sawtooth Avalanche Center released a statement Saturday that said two experienced backcountry skiers were traveling in Donaldson Park, and that while one skier was climbing down to the place he was to ski from, he triggered a "wind slab" avalanche. O'Connor was identified as "Skier 1" in the statement.

"The slide carried Skier 1 downhill, triggering a second and larger avalanche. Skier 2 used a satellite communication device to call for help before descending the avalanche path," the CAIC said. "She located Skier 1 with her rescue transceiver and probe pole," the report said of the second skier. "Skier 1 was buried under at least 5 feet of snow. She dug Skier 1 out of the snow with her shovel and began CPR. Search and rescue teams responded and evacuated Skier 1, but he did not survive the accident."

O'Connor was a well-known emergency room physician and his colleagues said he was instrumental in working to stem the COVID-19 pandemic in the early days of the outbreak.

"Terry was an outstanding physician and played a pivotal role in the early days of the COVID pandemic, really demonstrating the public health role of the EMS medical director within a community. His loss will be missed not only in the valley itself but throughout the entire state and region," the Idaho EMS Physician Commission said in a Saturday statement.

"We express our condolences to his family and the Wood River Fire and EMS community."

He worked most recently in the St. Luke's Wood River Emergency Department but had also been director of the Blaine County Ambulance District. He was honored by the Idaho Hospital Association and the South Central Public Health District for his "patient-focused" demeanor.

O'Connor was 48 and was well-known for tying outdoor adventure to serving other people, his colleagues said.