Haines residents remember Green, Durr


January 9, 2020

More than 300 people poured into the Chilkat Center auditorium Tuesday evening to celebrate the lives of Matthew Green and Zane Durr, both 21, who were killed in an avalanche in the Haines Pass on Dec. 30.

Residents remembered and memorialized the former Haines School graduates through stories, a Man-choir rendition of “Stand By Me” and three other songs, a ukulele performance from friend Neil Little, and a photo and video montage assembled by friends. The two robes on display on the stage were Ravens tail Chilkat Blankets. Zane’s great grandmother Edith Jacquot helped weave the “Healing Robe” on the right, and the “Children’s Robe” woven by Zane’s mother Carrie last year was on the left. Zane’s ashes will be kept in the bentwood box, carved by Jim Heaton, that was on display with the blankets. Zane’s medicine pouch was on display as well. It was made by his grandmother Mary Jane Valentine for his graduation in 2016.

Haines High 2016 graduates Green and Durr were close friends and roommates in Bothell, Washington, who spent their free time hiking, camping and exploring, according to friends and family. Community members laughed along with stories about a time the boys competed in a bet of who could hold a raw egg in their mouth the longest without cracking it (neither of them), and held their breath when classmates talked about how included the boys made them feel.

“I’ve always been on the outside looking in for most of my life, but every time I’d talk with Zane and Matthew it would seem like I was the most important person in the room,” classmate Keegan Palmieri said.

Zoe Hamilton, Durr’s cousin and Green’s close friend, told a story about the boys’ visit to see her in Oregon. “They said they’re here and I went outside,” she said. “I could see them sitting on the roof of their car with their shirts off baking in the sun with all my neighbors walking around.”

Green’s sister, Naomi Green, spoke about the Christmas he gifted every family member a packet of instant gravy, and Durr’s cousin, Cord Durr, remembered partially streaking around a fountain in downtown Seattle with him.

Riyan Stossel, who coached Durr in drama, debate and forensics in high school, said if there was a crowd, you could always find Durr at the center of it. Basketball coach Steve Fossman remembered Green as a fearless player who dropped 32 points against a Gustavus team that towered over the Haines boys.

“They were good men, and they were our good men,” Itaaehau Tupou said.

A third friend, 17-year-old Izak Miller, survived the slide.

The three snowboarders were ascending the north facing slope near the Chuck Creek trailhead in British Columbia at around 12:40 p.m. on Dec. 30 when the slab broke, Miller told the CVN on Tuesday. Avalanche Canada’s preliminary report estimated the slide traveled 500 feet down the mountain where it piled up on flat land, burying Green and Durr underneath three to five feet of snow. Those involved say the slide was closer to 100 feet.

Miller, buried up to his armpits, estimates that it took him up to 40 minutes to dig out of the snow with his hands and call for help with his satellite communication device. 

“I was on my own for a long time and it took a long time to dig myself free. As soon as I was out, I was able to find them very quickly with the probe and the beacon, but it was too late,” Miller said.

But, because of how deep they were buried, he wasn’t able to get to his friends in time.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police responding to Miller’s SOS signal arrived nearly three hours later, according to a witness at the scene. 

Daniel Dreiseitl was returning to Whitehorse after cross-country skiing two miles past the Chuck Creek trailhead when he saw Miller waving and calling for help. Dreiseitl, his skiing companion, and another highway maintenance driver stopped to help Miller and wait until authorities arrived.

 A B.C. coroner representative said Tuesday that the agency is still investigating the cause of death.

Miller said he’s snowboarded the same slope many times before, and that his group didn’t recognize any warning signs for a potential slide that day.

A group from Whitehorse skiing close to the U.S./Canadian border in Canada the day of the accident heard the news from other recreationalists, and drove past the parking lot next to the trailhead the following day to try to understand what had happened.

“What really sat with me when looking at the avalanche was how small that slope was,” skier Stephie Saal told the CVN. “It’s definitely steep enough for something to be triggered, but I was a bit shocked to realize that this small of a slope carried enough snow to kill someone. At least for me, that was an important thing to understand and keep in mind when going out in the future.”

Avalanche Canada has no danger rating for Dec. 30, as the Chuck Creek trailhead lies outside of its forecasting area. The Haines Avalanche Center has historically provided a regular avalanche forecast for the pass, but limited its advisories from three to one per week this year due to lack of state and borough funding. In its advisory posted Dec. 26, forecasters noted: “New snow and wind will continue. Natural and human-triggered avalanches will be likely within the storm snow in any wind-loaded areas 30-degrees and steeper.”

Avalanche Canada field technician James Minifie told the CVN that avalanche danger in the pass had been high given a recent storm in that area. “New snow combined with wind typically leads to elevated avalanche danger,” he said. 

Minifie said the only way to prevent avalanches is to avoid avalanche terrain, but recommended ski and snowboarders carry rescue equipment, take avalanche training courses and learn to recognize avalanche terrain. 

Haines Avalanche center director Erik Stevens gathered observations near the Chuck Creek Trailhead on Jan. 1. and issued an advisory warning recreators to stay out of avalanche terrain for the next few weeks.

“The bottom line: the snowpack at the pass has become complex, tricky, and generally weak in structure,” the report said. “This is a time for extra caution and avoidance of large terrain. The weak layers present are persistent and will be a concern for the next few weeks at least.”

This accident was the second avalanche fatality in 2019. In March, 34-year-old Haines resident David Dzenawagis was killed in an avalanche while snowboarding on the back side of Mount Ripinsky. 

The Haines Avalanche Center will continue to hold free awareness courses and beacon practice at the library, every other Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The next class will be Jan 23.

Donations to the Greens and Durrs can be made at gofundme.com “Greens & Durrs – Avalanche.”


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