Rescuers have extricated the bodies of two snowbikers killed when an avalanche swept down a central Colorado mountainside.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center said three people were riding the bikes, essentially a combination snowmobile and motorcycle, in Eagle County about 15 miles north of Vail when the avalanche hit Saturday.
“One rider was partially buried and was able to extricate himself,” the center said in a statement.
But the avalanche carried the other two riders into a gully, where they were fully buried in debris from the 650-foot-wide wall of snow that roared 120 feet down the mountain. The survivor contacted authorities at about 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, authorities said.
Killed were Dillon Block, 28, and Cesar Almanza-Hernandez, 30. Both were from nearby Gypsum, Colorado.
Hunter Schleper of Vail told KCNC-TV that he and his friends dug for five hours trying to find the victims. Schleper posted on Facebook that they located the riders under 20 feet of snow. But Vail Mountain Rescue told them to stop their efforts Saturday evening because of low visibility and avalanche danger.
Search and rescue volunteers recovered the bodies Sunday
The sheriff’s office said in a statement it appeared the snowbikers may have triggered the avalanche. Four people have died in avalanches in Colorado this winter, authorities said.
“Snowstorms pile up one after the other all winter long. Wind blows snow off of some slopes and on to others,” the statement said. “Temperature changes cause snow crystals to metamorphose. If the snow’s consistency remains constant, the snowpack is homogenous and stable. It’s when the snowpack develops different layers of different snow types that it becomes unstable and hazardous.”
Contributing: The Associated Press