Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2000-03-18
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Maroon Creek, near Aspen
State: CO
Country: USA
Fatalities: 2
Summary: 3 Skiers caught, 2 buried, and killed

Two victims pulled from avalanche

Storm delayed recovery of backcountry skiers

By Hector Gutierrez

Denver Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer

ASPEN -- Pitkin County rescue crews removed the bodies

of two avalanche victims Saturday afternoon, more than 24

hours after they were buried by a huge slab of snow.

Authorities said they believe the victims died shortly after

they were overwhelmed Friday afternoon by the avalanche,

which measured about 75 yards long and 300 to 400 yards

wide. The slide was about 12 feet deep.

The victims are John R. Roberts, 30, and Michael G.

Hanrahan, 49. Their hometowns were not released.

"They didn't die of suffocation," said Tom Grady, director of

operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office. "It was a

slab avalanche. It was a substantial avalanche. It was obvious


The victims were downhill skiing in the backcountry with

four other friends and acquaintances in the Tonar Bowl,

south of Maroon Bowl, in Maroon Creek Valley.

Witnesses said the skiers had been skiing for just a short

time before the avalanche.

One of the skiers managed to break free from the avalanche

but then could not find his companions.

He skied down to a dude ranch to call for assistance,

authorities said.

In the meantime, the three other skiers located the two buried

victims when their emergency transceivers activated.

They were able to dig out the victims within 30 minutes, but

the two were already dead, Grady said.

When patrol teams arrived to find the other skiers and the

victims, another snowstorm moved in and authorities called

off the recovery operation because it was too

dangerous to remove the bodies.

Saturday, Pitkin County patrollers waited for the bad weather

to clear and were finally able to bring down the two bodies

about 4 p.m.

The crews used snowmobiles to help transport the bodies out

of the backcountry to the nearest road.

The avalanche deaths were the seventh and eighth this winter

in Colorado.

The average for a year is six. During the 1992-93 winter

season, Colorado recorded 12 avalanche fatalities, the most

in its history.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

March 19, 2000