Report: Snowmobile pinned man killed in Rollins Pass avalanche |

Report: Snowmobile pinned man killed in Rollins Pass avalanche

Grand County Search and Rescue works to remove the snowmobile from the avalanche debris.
Courtesy CAIC

The man who died in Grand County’s most recent fatal avalanche asphyxiated after being pinned by his snowmobile on Mt. Epworth outside Winter Park, according to the final report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

On Feb. 14, 58-year-old Michael Westall of Parker was snowmobiling near Pumphouse Lake off Rollins Pass with his son when he climbed the slope and rode his snowmobile sideways across the hill, releasing the avalanche which carried Westall about 200 vertical feet onto the lake.

The final report describes Westall’s son finding him buried in a foot of avalanche debris and water while pinned at the torso by his snowmobile. Westall’s son was able to prop his head up out of the water using a shovel, but couldn’t free Westall.

After riding away from the area to find cell phone service, Westall’s son called for emergency responders.

The avalanche that killed snowmobiler Michael Westall wrapped 2,000 feet around the south face of Mount Epworth. This photo was taken Feb. 16, after additional snow and drifting.
Photo from Grand County Search and Rescue / Colorado Avalanche Information Center

A Grand County Search and Rescue volunteer nearby was the first to arrive on scene and was able to free Westall from underneath the sled and begin CPR. Though Westall was originally conscious, resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful and he succumbed to his injuries.

According to CAIC, rescuers believe Westall was thrown forward over his sled, where he became stuck by the spinning track and was suffocated.

Westall was the 10th of 11 avalanche deaths in Colorado so far this season.

Weak snowpack and heavy winds have contributed to a large number of avalanches this season, according to CAIC. From Feb. 4 through 13, 41 avalanches were reported in the Front Range region.

A special avalanche advisory was in place on Feb. 14, when two people, including Westall, died in two separate avalanches. The second death was a snowboarder killed in a slide on Loveland Pass.

The slide on Mt. Epworth that killed Westall spanned 2,000 feet across the face of the slope.

In addition, CAIC reports the avalanche was the third in the Front Range region to be complicated by a lake.

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