2 dead in Independence Pass avalanche
February 20, 2014
TWIN LAKES — The Lake County Sheriff's Office has confirmed two fatalities stemming from an avalanche Saturday, Feb. 15, according to the Lake County Office of Emergency Management's Facebook page.
The Lake County Sheriff's Office announced it would not yet release the identities of any of the seven skiers involved in the avalanche that slid at about 5 p.m. Saturday on the eastern side of Independence Pass, including the two victims found at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday. The avalanche was reportedly about eight miles west of Twin Lakes.
Among the participating agencies in the search and rescue effort were the Lake County Sheriff's Office, the Lake County Emergency Manager, Lake County Public Works, St. Vincent Hospital EMS, Leadville/Lake County Fire and Rescue, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment and Lake County Search and Rescue teams.
Three members of the Summit County Rescue Group also participated in search and rescue efforts, said public information officer Charles Pitman.
According to reports from the Lake County Office of Emergency Management, the seven skiers were near the top of a ridge when they activated the avalanche about one mile from the LaPlata parking area along Colorado Highway 82.
Three people were taken to the hospital in Leadville with injuries that included a broken leg, a broken ankle and a possible broken rib and collapsed lung. Two others were unharmed.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said the slide was large and at or near tree line in an area popular for snow recreation activities.
The avalanche did not reach the road, and a team from the Colorado Department of Transportation is expected to determine a way to clear the area.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued warnings in its weekend forecasts. On Sunday, the center told backcountry tourers to avoid the backcountry.
"Most recent slides have occurred on slopes near and above treeline that face north to east through southeast," the CAIC Sawatch forecast said Sunday. "However, due to recent heavy snowfall, strong winds and slow-to-stabilize weak layers, every snow covered slope should be treated with equal suspicion. Currently, it is best to just avoid all avalanche terrain and seek out alternative forms of entertainment."