Two residents were caught in an “urban avalanche” in Crested Butte, resulting in one death.
The two individuals were clearing snow off of a “low-angled” roof when a slide occurred, burying both individuals. According to the official report, no one witnessed this avalanche.
This accident was discovered approximately 10 minutes later when a passerby spotted the scene. They called emergency services, which promptly arrived.
One individual wasn’t buried as deeply. They were found alive. The second person required a probe for discovery. They were not breathing when uncovered, later determined to be deceased.
The official report estimates that individuals were buried for 20 to 30 minutes. As you might guess, the probability of surviving a burial decreases as time elapses. Approximately 90% of avalanche victims can be recovered alive if that recovery happens within 5 minutes. At 45 minutes, this chance of survival drops as low as 20%.
Crested Butte has been getting a lot of snow this season, including multiple feet over the past week or so.
This avalanche prompted a warning from the local fire department regarding urban avalanches. That warning suggests using a safety system and a buddy system in precarious snow-clearing scenarios.
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