SAWTOOTH NATIONAL FOREST, IDAHO — A family and community are in shock after losing a beloved husband, father, friend, and neighbor.
Andy Jessop of Corvallis, Montana, died Friday after he triggered an avalanche while snowmobiling in an area known as Smiley Creek in Idaho's Sawtooth National Forest. His death marks the 29th avalanche fatality in the U.S. since the start of the year.
According to an initial report from the Sawtooth Avalanche Center, Jessop deployed his avalanche airbag after the slide was triggered which kept him above the surface. He was carried roughly 600 feet down the mountain and died from blunt force trauma after colliding with a tree.
Jessop's sister-in-law, Camilla Peterson, who lives in Sanpete County, describes him as an avid outdoorsman and experienced snowmobiler. "He lived and breathed snowmobiling," Peterson said. "Any spare minute he had he would go up and he would be snowmobiling."
Jessop, 30 years old, met his wife Heather in Utah; she grew up in Gunnison. The two married in 2012 and moved to Montana a few years ago. Jessop worked as a mechanic and volunteered as a reserve sheriff's deputy on the weekends. Peterson said he lived a life in service to others.
"He was also one of the most giving and thoughtful people I've ever known," she said, adding that Jessop was always willing to drop whatever he was doing to lend a helping hand. "He has done so much for hundreds and hundreds of people without ever expecting anything in return. He would give you the shirt off of his back."
Avalanche conditions across the Intermountain West continue to be dangerous after a dry start to the season combined with heavy snowfall over the last few weeks. The Sawtooth Avalanche Center posted a video on Friday detailing the snow conditions at the site of the accident.
"What we're finding is about more than three feet of snow that failed on a melt-freeze crust with a thin layer of facets on it," avalanche forecaster Chris Lundy said in the video.
Jessop is survived by his wife and five children, as well as family in Montana and Utah. A GoFundMe page set up for the Jessop family has raised more than $60,000 in the last day. Peterson said they are overwhelmed by the love and support.
"It's been really beautiful to see how much love people had for Andy and his family," she added.
The Sawtooth Avalanche Center will release a full report in the coming days.