WSDOT employee freed after avalanche traps him in bulldozer

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- A Washington State Department of Transportation employee was rescued Thursday after an avalanche trapped him inside his bulldozer for about five hours.

The department says Tom Martinson was working with a crew clearing snow from State Route 410 just east of Chinook Pass when the avalanche hit around 10 a.m. The snow covered the bulldozer to the top of the cab, and Martinson was unable to get out.

WSDOT says Martinson was not injured and that it was safe for him to remain where he was until crews were able to free him around 3 p.m.

Crews have been working to clear Chinook Pass since Apr. 2, but the area received more than a foot of snow this week. Then, warmer temperatures increased the risk of avalanche.

WSDOT says crews expect to resume clearing work next week and hope to reopen the pass by Memorial Day weekend.