Police in Missoula, MT are investigating reports that a snowboarder trespassing on city property set off an avalanche March 1 that destroyed two homes and claimed the life of a resident.
A large slab avalanche rumbled down Mt Jumbo and into a neighborhood around 4:15 p.m. Friday, destroying the homes and burrying three victims. Michel Jo Colville succumbed to her injuries on Monday, while her husband and an eight-year-old boy survived.
On Saturday, the Central Montana Avalanche Center reported on its website that the avalanche was triggered by a snowboarder near the top of Mount Jumbo and that police detectives had “conducted interviews in an investigative effort to determine if the avalanche was caused by human activity.”
The investigation continued Friday and could result in charges of criminal trespassing and criminal negligence, according to a police spokesman reached by The B.O.S.S. Report.
“Since city property on Mt. Jumbo is, and was closed at the time the avalanche occurred, and the fact that there were allegations that snow enthusiasts may have been in the closed area at the time, it is possible that the crime of Criminal Trespass had occurred,” said Travis Welch, public information officer for the Missoula Police Department. “Also, the slide caused the destruction of a single family home, and damage to other structures in the area. We are investigating the possibility that through an act of negligence, the damage was caused, and subsequently a death has resulted from the slide.”
The report comes as avalanche season peaks through much of the Western United States and the North American backcountry ski community bolsters its avalanche safety training and outreach efforts. On March 1, GoPro partnered with Group Zero to launch a contest that challenges skiers and snowboarders to make a 4-minute video showing how they prepare to safely explore beyond the resort boundary in exchange for a chance to win a gear stash and cat skiing trip to the Canadian Rockies. As of Friday, about 30 people had begun following the Know The Snow contest site on Vimeo although none had posted videos, prompting Project Zero to extend the contest another week to April 7.