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Montana woman dies of injuries from avalanche that destroyed her home

Woman Dies After Being Rescued From Montana Avalanche
By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - A woman buried alive with her husband by an avalanche that roared down a mountainside and swallowed their house in Missoula, Montana, late last week has died of her injuries, police said on Monday.

Michel Colville, 68, a textile artist, and her husband, Fred Allendorf, 66, a professor emeritus at the nearby University of Montana campus, were trapped and missing in the snow for hours before they were rescued on Friday evening.

An 8-year-old boy buried in the snow also was pulled to safety from a nearby yard about 90 minutes after the avalanche struck.

Colville died on Sunday night, Missoula police Sergeant Travis Welsh said, but there was no information available about the nature or extent of her injuries.

Allendorf, initially listed in critical condition, has since been upgraded to serious condition at St. Patrick Hospital, while the boy, who was not publicly identified, was listed in fair condition.

The avalanche swept down the side of Mount Jumbo during a blizzard at an estimated speed of 120 miles per hour (190 km per hour) and slammed into a neighborhood northeast of downtown, engulfing the two-story house where Colville and Allendorf lived.

The slide may have been inadvertently unleashed by a snowboarder, or others engaged in recreational activity, in an area of the mountain placed off-limits in winter to provide range for foraging elk, authorities said.

Welsh said investigators had interviewed several individuals who were in the vicinity where the avalanche appeared to have originated, but no arrests have been made and no charges were pending.

Police are likely to consult with a local prosecutor to decide whether to press ahead with a criminal investigation in the case, a gray area because of the extreme rarity of an avalanche within city limits, he said.

"We've never had an avalanche in town that I'm aware of, so we really don't know where this investigation will take us," Welsh said.

Welsh said the mountain is posted with signs warning of the closure and that violators could be cited for criminal trespass, a misdemeanor.

Almost all U.S. avalanches that affect people strike in the backcountry of the mountainous West and are triggered by snowmobilers, skiers and snowboarders seeking fresh powder, according to federal avalanche experts.

Colville's death brings to 18 the number of people who have died in avalanches in Western states so far this season, twice the tally for this time last year, federal figures show.

Government specialists say the rise in killer avalanches stems in part from unusually dense, wet snow that has blanketed the mountain West in recent months after an extended dry spell weakened a base layer of snow laid earlier in the season.

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injai March 04 2014 at 8:59 PM

This is a tough one....let's see what happens...it should be investigated...

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1 reply
randmhunley injai March 04 2014 at 11:39 PM


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1 reply
Tom randmhunley March 05 2014 at 1:20 AM

You should get jail for typing in caps.

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jsim6974 March 04 2014 at 8:41 PM

As more and more roads & people move into these once remote areas, users of backcountry areas really need to follow rules and common sense.

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Sawyer March 05 2014 at 12:36 AM

No one will be charged with a crime.

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rflyguy March 04 2014 at 5:04 PM

The avalanche occurred at the foot of Mt Jumbo in Missoula, Mt. The mountain is closed off to human entrance from approximately the first of Dec to first of April or May, probably May to protect the elk herds that reside there. Food is scarce and the powers that be don't want the elk to waste their energy needlessly running away from humans. The wolves haven't arrived here yet, to the best of my knowledge, to be of concern to the elk. The area at the foot of Jumbo hasn't been declared an avalanche zone probably because there haven't been any or none since the1890's. perhaps. There are a lot of homes at the foot of Jumbo I live about a mile and half up from the Avalanche.

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LEE March 05 2014 at 1:24 AM

Where is the story about why charges may be filled???????

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rubyslippersoh March 05 2014 at 1:35 AM

I live a few blocks from the avalanche in the Lower Rattlesnake... The area on Mt. jumbo is closed every year for a defined time to cut the elk herds some slack. It's posted and it's common knowledge. No one should have been up there.

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1 reply
Brenda rubyslippersoh March 05 2014 at 5:11 AM

is it possible that the elk herds caused this?

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wildwns March 05 2014 at 2:17 AM

The burden of proof is actually what really caused the avalanche. Could have been the Elk. Speculation should not lead to arrests.

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1 reply
dave1marine wildwns March 05 2014 at 6:45 AM

The area was posted "no trespassing" and an avalanche hazard. People are arrested for trespassing every day in this country, and THAT is not speculation.

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Christopher March 04 2014 at 3:10 PM

If it was posted off limits and they still went there snowboarding or whatever and caused this, then they are indeed guilty and should be charged.. It was posted for a reason even if it was for something else. They broke the law and should be charged as such..

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kmcc895370 March 05 2014 at 6:34 AM

Quit the grandstanding, Welsh & police. You just to want to stick somebody who couldn't possibly know what would happen and that's ASSuming it wasn't just a natural event. lousy oppourtunists!

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1 reply
Anne Boleyns Crown kmcc895370 March 05 2014 at 7:03 AM

Sorry, but if the area had clear signs that it was restricted, BUT FOR THE FACT (that's a legal term) that he disregarded the warnings and did as he pleased, the avalanche would not have been triggered by him. It's not murder, but it seems like negligence. Could it have still been triggered by a herd of elk? Possibly. But if the snowboarder would not have been where it was restricted, he (or she), wouldn't be facing charges.

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sschultz8 March 05 2014 at 5:35 AM

Sorry to hear about the one that lost her lifer and the others that got hurt,,, But reading a few of the other comments,,, The snow boarder is already tried and convicted of a crime... I don't remember hearing of anyone being charged yet... And as a couple mentioned it could have been an Elk or even a natural occurance,,, Seems like there was a good build up of earlier snow that hardens after awhile and the put 10 " of fresh on top of it. Nature could have caused it as easiley as anything else..

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