Detailed Accident Report
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Maroon Creek, near Aspen
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,
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
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