Feb. 17 (UPI) — Search and rescue volunteers in Colorado recovered the bodies of two snowmobilers on Sunday who were killed over the weekend in an avalanche, officials said.
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that three snowmobilers became caught in an avalanche they may have triggered at about 4:45 p.m. Saturday in the area of Muddy Pass just north of Vail, Colo.
Two of the snowmobilers were killed when they were carried into a gully by the avalanche and were deeply buried in snow, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said.
Authorities identified the victims as Dillon Block, 28, and Cesar Almanza-Hernandez, 30, both of Gypsum, Colo.
The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said the third snowmobiler was only partially buried and was able to extract himself from the snow before contacting the authorities, who initiated a search for Block and Almanza-Hernandez.
“We are so appreciative of the volunteers with Vail Mountain Rescue Group who worked on this very tragic incident,” Eagle County Sheriff Van Beek said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with the families and friends of Mr. Block and Mr. Almanza-Hernandez.”
The avalanche occurred below the treeline at around 9,800 feet in elevation and was approximately 650 feet wide and 120 feet vertical, the center said.
“The avalanche initiated in the old snow layers about three feet below the snow surface,” the center said. “It stepped down to a weak layer near the ground, about five feet deep. Our deepest condolences go out to the family, friends and everyone affected by this accident.”
The backcountry avalanche forecast is rated “considerable” for above and near the treeline signaling dangerous avalanche conditions and “cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making” are necessary.
An average of 27 people have died in avalanches in each of the past 10 winters in the United States, the CAIC said, adding that avalanches over President’s Day weekend resulting in deaths are not uncommon.