Family of Man Killed in Colorado Avalanche is Suing Guide, School, SAR Team, and Airbag Manufacturer for Wrongful Death

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The red lines mark the crown face of the two avalanches. The group of skiers triggered the slide on the right, and the slide on the left released sympathetically. Credit: CAIC

The family of a Colorado man killed in an avalanche near Silverton, CO two years ago is suing the guide and school, the search and rescue team, and the manufacturer of the airbag he was wearing at the time for wrongful death, reports Jason Blevins with the Colorado Sun. The man’s wife and daughter accuse Silverton Avalanche School, San Juan County Search and Rescue, and the named guide of a series of failures, fraud, misrepresentation, and negligence.

In January 2019, six backcountry skiers were on a course on Red Mountain Pass in Senator Beck Basin led by the Silverton Avalanche School. According to a report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the skiers triggered an avalanche while coming down, ‘sympathetically’ releasing a second avalanche that overran the debris pile of the first and caught everyone in the group.

One of the skiers was buried under at least 8 feet of the debris from the avalanches and died. The Durango Herald identified him as Peter Marshall, 40, of Longmont. The group dug Marshall out from under the snow and attempted to revive him on site but were unsuccessful.

Also charged in the lawsuit is Backcountry Access, the manufacturer of the Float 32 avalanche airbag worn by Mr. Marshall at the time. The lawsuit alleges that despite Mr. Marshall’s attempts, the airbag did not inflate as expected. According to the CAIC report at the time, the airbag “was functioning properly, the trigger out of the pack strap, but the bag was not deployed.”

Leading up to Mr. Marshall’s recreational Avalanche 2 course, considerable snow fell in the North San Juan Mountains during the fall and winter of 2018. In late November and early December, a series of storms built layers of wind-drifted snow over a weak and cohesionless foundation. These storms contributed to a significant increase in avalanche activity in the North San Juan zone. The CAIC documented 87 avalanches in this area between November 22, 2018, and December 15, 2018.

Red Mountain Pass, CO

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8 thoughts on “Family of Man Killed in Colorado Avalanche is Suing Guide, School, SAR Team, and Airbag Manufacturer for Wrongful Death

  1. Sorry I read it wrong, you said possibly the guide or his supervisors were negligent in their actions. My mistake.

  2. I didn’t realize that you are an expert, Klisterboy .
    So what your saying is that everyone involved in the avalanche incident including the SAR , law enforcement, BCA , the guide and guiding business all conspired to murder Peter Marshall , but you admit that maybe his own negligence may have contributed to his death ? So you’re a lawyer too ? I’m confused , it was gross negligence or it wasn’t ?

  3. I’ve taught skiing and guided in the US, Canada and Europe since the late 70’s
    and continue to do so. It’s a guides responsibility to make sure backcountry protocols are explained and followed. This did not happen.
    BTW I ski Red Mountain Pass 1-2 times weekly.
    The area where the accident occurred is a notorious terrain trap. The “guide” never
    should have taken a class there. Either his own negligence or lack of supervision caused this tragedy.

  4. The air bag was not deployed, there was high avalanche risk but the group decided to go any way, this was a level 2 avalanche course so everyone knew the risk of traveling in the backcountry, it’s hard to claim negligence when you have experienced participants who understand the risks of backcountry travel. Everyone in that group signed the waivers and understood that what they were doing was risky .
    Murder is a very serious thing to claim , to charge the people who respond to the avalanche and put their own lives at risk is a very serious and misguided effort to blame everyone involved with negligence when the participants knew what they were doing and understood the risk but chose to go ahead with the class .
    Have you ever been backcountry skiing ?
    I have and I will go again, I fully understood that it was risky and it was the best skiing I ever experienced.
    Life is pretty boring with out risk and pushing the boundaries. I’m confident that the lawsuit will be unsuccessful, proving negligence is extremely difficult especially when the uncertainty and unpredictable nature of travel in snow.

  5. Only if gross negligence can be proved . Skiing and snowboarding is inherently dangerous, knowing the risk and managing it reduces the risk, backcountry travel in the snow is even more risky . If you can’t come to grips with the fact that you may be injured or die while participating in a risky activity then maybe you should stick to playing video games in your basement , very little risk of being injured or dying. If everyone in that group was to be charged with murder then the backcountry guiding business would cease to exist. It would make it impossible to get insurance to operate any backcountry guiding business.
    The person who died knew the risk and signed the waiver, the lawsuit is misguided and unnecessary and it will make it more expensive for customers to hire backcountry guides to teach avalanche classes. I hope his wife and daughter lose the case and are held accountable for all court costs.

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