A man who went missing while skiing at Bear Valley in March was found dead and partially buried on Monday as snow melted in the area.
Authorities found the remains of Thomas Mullarkey, 65, in the area of the resort known as “Groovy Gully,” after search dogs trained to follow human scents led searchers to a ski pole and ski sticking from beneath the snow, according to a news release from the Alpine County Sheriff’s Office. The missing man was found underneath.
Mullarkey’s wife had reported him missing when he did not return to his Arnold cabin on March 14, the same day he went skiing at Bear Valley in Alpine County. Authorities found his vehicle and a cellphone at the resort, but could not find any additional clues at the time.
A search of the slopes continued for five days, before it was scaled back due to weather conditions.
Alpine County Undersheriff Spencer Case said Tuesday via telephone conversation that Mullarkey was found at the base of an outcropping. It was unclear whether he sustained injuries or suffocated after being buried by the snow.
An autopsy is un-derway. Results are ex-pected within a week.
The area where Mullarkey was found would have been considered an avalanche zone at the time of the search. He could have been buried beneath 15 to 20 feet of snow, Case said.
“It would have been hard,” said Case in response to a question of whether the dogs could have been able to pick up the scent at the time of the search in March. “Dogs are good, but do not answer every prayer.”
Searchers scanned the area every weekend after initial efforts were suspended in March. Heavy snowfall at the time of the initial search limited ground searchers exclusively to daytime efforts. Helicopters were grounded for two days. Visibility was only 20 feet because of the precipitation.