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Whittier principal killed in Sunday avalanche

Craig Kitto, 45, succumbed to injuries
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Posted at 10:02 AM, Feb 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-15 21:28:01-05

BOZEMAN — The man killed in an avalanche on Sunday has been identified as a Bozeman resident.

According to a press release, the Gallatin County Coroners Office said Craig Kitto, 45, succumbed to his injuries and passed away on Sunday evening.

Kitto was the principal at Whittier Elementary School in Bozeman.

The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center is assessing the avalanche site today.

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The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center is assessing the avalanche site today.

Kitto died from injuries sustained after being caught in an avalanche at Beehive Basin near Big Sky.

The Sheriff's Office issued the following media release on Sunday evening:

On February 14, 2021 at 11:44 am, two backcountry skiers were caught in an avalanche in Beehive Basin. Both skiers were swept down slope into trees. One was not buried and did not sustain any injuries. He immediately called 911 when he heard his partner yelling for help.

The second male sustained multiple injuries due to being drug into the trees by the avalanche and was partially buried in snow.

Gallatin County Sheriff Search and Rescue in Big Sky, LifeFlight and Big Sky Fire Department responded. Search and Rescue members were able to quickly make it to the backcountry location, assess the patient and start rescue procedures. A Gallatin County Sheriff Search and Rescue helicopter team was able to transport the patient to an awaiting ambulance which then transported the patient to Big Sky Medical Center. The patient was subsequently flown to Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital by LifeFlight Network helicopter.

The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center is investigating the site but says that the snowpack in the region has been particularly weak this season.

A member of the avalanche center said backcountry enthusiasts need to use caution after the recent snowfalls.

"It also means limiting your exposure to terrain traps," said Dave Zinn, Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center. "Terrain traps are areas where the consequences of an avalanche could be elevated due to burial depth, or trauma. Areas that we are talking about are gullies where snow can pile up deep and areas, where an avalanche might run through trees, is more of a likelihood there.

Right now, the avalanche danger is rated at moderate in the Gallatin and Madison Ranges, and moderate in the Bridger range with more mountain snow on the way.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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