Search Continues For Skiers Buried By Breckenridge Avalanche
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (AP) _ Hundreds of volunteers searching a Rocky Mountain peak today found the body of a second victim of a massive avalanche that cut a half-mile-wide swath as it roared down the mountain.
Summit County Sheriff Delbert Ewoldt said the second body was found shortly after 11 a.m. No identification was immediately available.
“This morning, with one found last night, we’re looking for two, possibly three” more victims of the avalanche, Ewoldt said.
Helicopters were sent to the peak before dawn today to drop explosives to release snow still hanging over the slope. Ewoldt then sent in 60 skilled mountaineers and dog teams, and 200 volunteers joined the hunt for missing skiers.
The avalanche Wednesday on an out-of-bounds slope beside the Breckenridge ski area in Arapahoe National Forest, 65 miles west of Denver in the central Colorado Rockies, cut a swath a half-mile wide and left a 40-foot-long fissure where it broke loose, said Dave Peri, Breckenridge marketing director. It carried into a gully a half-mile below.
The body of one skier was dug from the snow Wednesday, and today, Summit County Coroner Marty Flohrs identified him as Martin Donnellan, 21, of Peekskill, N.Y. Apparent cause of death was suffocation, the coroner said.
He was the fifth confirmed avalanche victim in Colorado this ski season.
Australian skier Tim Kirkland escaped the avalanche and identified three others in his party who apparently didn’t make it.
″It looked like a huge cloud coming down,″ Kirkland told reporters in a hoarse whisper.
Kirkland said his group of four skiers saw the out-of-bounds signs and ″skied under the ropes without stopping″ because the steep area ″looked attractive.″
He said Nick Casey, 23, of Cambridge, New Zealand, lost a ski in the powder and the rest of the group waited for him to reattach the binding.
″We were sitting in the snow when one guy right away yelled, ‘Avalanche 3/8’
″All we could do is stand up and try to ski out of it. I’m the only one who did,″ Kirkland said.
He identified another member of the party as Paul Way, 23, of Auckland, New Zealand. The fourth person he identified as Wayne, a New Yorker who was sharing a condominium with him.
John Webster, 31, of Mansfield, Ohio, who was among volunteers who found Donellan about 3 1/2 hours after the avalanche, said the man ″was buried in about four feet of snow. He was completely blue. There was no air pocket. There was no pulse. They tried CPR but got nothing.″
Wednesday’s search was called off at 10:30 p.m., and officials held out little hope that more survivors would be found today.
However, ″last year we had a man who survived 22 hours in an avalanche in the San Juan Mountains near Durango,″ said Hunter Holloway, of the Colorado Search and Rescue Board.
Gary Dutmers, a spokesman for the Breckenridge ski area, said the avalanche area, on U.S. Forest Service land, was roped off and clearly marked out-of- bounds with a warning sign that read: ″Back-country skiing outside this rope is extremely dangerous. Avalanche paths exist all across Peak 7. Avalanches are unpredictable and can occur at any time of the season.″
Webster said witnesses told him the avalanche started when two skiers standing near the top of the bowl accidently sent snow over four skiers resting below them.
He said two other skiers, also resting along the ridge, may also have been caught.
″The guys on the ridge started it,″ said Webster. ″They yelled to the four guys resting, but they didn’t hear them. Those four got caught right against the wall.″