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5 snowboarders killed in Colo. avalanche

10:05 AM, Apr 21, 2013   |    comments
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(9News Denver)

CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. -- Authorities have recovered the bodies of five snowboarders who were killed in a backcountry avalanche on Colorado's Loveland Pass. This is the worst avalanche accident in Colorado since 1962.

"Six backcountry snowboarders went out from the top of Loveland Pass, got to the area just above Loveland Valley and apparently, triggered a slide," Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger said.

Multiple search and rescue crews located the bodies Saturday. A sixth snowboarder was caught in the slide. He managed to escape without injury.

"If he hadn't gotten out, if he would've been buried, too, it's hard telling when we might've found out," Krueger said.

Krueger says the avalanche area is hard to spot. It is not visible from the road.

"If he hadn't gotten out, they may still be buried up there and we wouldn't even know it," Krueger said.

Investigators say the snowboarding group was walking up a drainage area called Sheep Creek when the snowboarders triggered the avalanche about 650 feet wide, 1,150 feet long and eight feet deep.

"It appears that they triggered the avalanche low down on the slope much like pulling a log out from the bottom of a wood pile," said Dale Atkins with the Alpine Rescue Team. "It caused the avalanche and quite a large one to crash down on top of them."

The pass, elevation of 11,990 feet, is popular among backcountry skiers and snowboarders, especially with a lot of snowfall.

Sheriff Krueger says the powder may be appealing, but with warmer temperatures, it could be deadly.

"It's nasty back there," Krueger said. "It's still avalanche country. There's a lot of wet snow."

In 1962, seven people died in an avalanche near Twin Lakes, Colorado.

The identities of the victims from Saturday's slide have not been released.

(9News/KUSA-TV)

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