5 snowboarders killed in avalanche near Loveland Pass identified Sunday

Jerome Boulay was only survivor

The five snowboarders killed in an avalanche northeast of Loveland Pass Saturday have been identified as Chris Peters, 32, from Lakewood, Joe Timlin, 32 of Gypsum, Ryan Novack, 33, of Boulder, Ian Lamphere, 36, of Crested Butte, and Rick (or Rich) Gaukel, 33, of Estes Park.

Gaukel was with the American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education, ABC News reported.

A  group of six people were snowboarding in the backcountry when they apparently triggered the slide, said Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger.

All six were reportedly expert riders and were participating in a community event promoting backcountry safety and gear, according to ESPN.  They were all equipped with proper backcountry gear, including avalanche beacons.

The sixth rider, Jerome Boulay, sales manager for Silverton, Colo.-based Venture Snowboards, survived being partially burried, according to ESPN. He was able to dig out and call for help.

Venture Snowboards issues this statement Monday:

"On April 20th, an avalanche on Colorado's Loveland Pass dealt a devastating blow to our tightly-knit backcountry community. We are grateful to report that our employee, Jerome Boulay, is unharmed, though he is obviously shaken by Saturday’s events.  While Jerome is communicating with the victims' families, he is refraining from public comment.  Please respect his privacy at this time.  All of us at Venture are deeply saddened by the loss of these five friends and colleagues. They will be sorely missed, and our hearts go out to their families and loved ones."

If Boulay hadn't survived, nobody would have known about the group being trapped in the avalanche until hours later, when someone would have reported them missing when they didn't return home Saturday night, Krueger said.

 

The snow slide occurred just after 2 p.m. but it took four hours to recover the bodies, authorities said. The final victim recovered was buried under 12 feet of snow, ABC News reported Sunday.

There were whiteout conditions in the mountains, making the search and rescue tough, the sheriff said.

“It’s snowing like hell up here, which isn’t helping,” Krueger told 7NEWS.

"Our understanding is that they were in the track of the avalanche, not up in the start zone where the steepest terrain was," said Ethan Green, of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

"They were very experienced and had all the right equipment, it just wasn't the right time to do this," said Alex Quintanar, a friend of Chris Peters. "I'm just heartbroken."

Eventually, searchers from Clear Creek County, the Alpine Rescue Team and the Summit Rescue Team and the Loveland and Arapahoe Basin ski resorts located the bodies.

Krueger said the avalanche was 650 feet wide, 1,100 feet long and 8 feet deep. All of the snowboarders had the right equipment, including avalanche beacons, which helps pinpoint where you are buried.

The deaths have rattled the ski industry.  Some of the men had been heli-guides, avalanche experts teaching safety classes and avid snowboarders and skiers.

Joe Timlin was a representative for Jones Snowboarders and helped organize the weekend's event.

The Snowboard Colorado Facebook page posted a photo of TImlin, calling him "an amazing person and a very good friend who will be terribly missed."

Rick Gaukel worked for the Colorado Mountain School according to his online bio and instructed rock climbing and avalanche safety courses.

Ian Lamphere founded and owned Gecko Skins out of Crested Butte, a company that makes innovative climbing skins.

Sunday morning, crews from Colorado's Avalanche Information Center were back at the scene trying to determine what the snow conditions were like when the snow gave way.

"We were warning people about the potential for deep slab releases, deep hard slab avalanches.  We had rated the danger in this area at considerable which is a level 3 out of 5 on the avalanche danger scale.  Most fatal accidents happen at that danger level," said Ethan Greene of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

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