Avalanche kills American man in backcountry of Japanese mountains, police say

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Tokyo — Police in the city of Myoko, in Japan’s central Niigata region, said Wednesday that an American man in his 30s was killed by an avalanche in a backcountry area of Mount Mitahara.

Local police received calls on Wednesday afternoon that three or four people had been caught in an avalanche in the area. According to Myoko city police, there were three others — Russian, Scottish and Japanese nationals — with the U.S. man when the snow came cascading down the mountain.

All three of the other men were rescued without injuries, the police said.

Trees in the snow and Myoko mountain range, Niigata Prefecture
A file photo shows the Mount Myoko mountain range in Japan’s central Niigata Prefecture.

S. Akiyama/Aflo/Getty/iStock


Local news reports said the men were lifted off the mountain by a Niigata prefectural police helicopter, including the American who was unconscious at the time. He was rushed to a hospital but later pronounced dead.

His identity has not been confirmed.

It was not immediately clear what the men were doing in the area when the avalanche struck, but Mt. Mitahara and the neighboring peak Mt. Myoko are popular with backcountry skiiers and snowboarders.

The accident comes about one year after American world champion halfpipe skier Kyle Smaine and another skier were killed by an avalanche in the mountains of central Japan. Police in Nagano Prefecture said the two were among five foreign skiers caught by the avalanche on the eastern slope of Mount Hakuba Norikura, where the group was backcountry skiing.

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