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Sheriff says two killed in avalanche were from Wisconsin

(Photo: MGN Online)

(Photo: MGN Online)

TWIN LAKES, Colo. — The Lake County Sheriff’s Office said that two people missing after they were caught in an avalanche on Independence Pass were found dead Sunday.

Jarrad Law, 34, of Portage, Wisc. and Justin Lentz, 32 of Sun Prairie, Wisc. died in the snow slide. The Lake County Sheriff released the names Monday.

Three people were injured in the slide, which happened on the Twin Lakes side of Independence Pass about 5 p.m. Saturday. Two others were caught in it but they were not hurt. The avalanche was reported on Highway 82, about 1 mile beyond the LaPlata parking area and 8 miles west of Twin Lakes Village.

A search and rescue team worked to remove the bodies from the steep terrain Sunday, said Betty Benson, a spokeswoman for the Lake County Office of Emergency Management.

The two skiers, reportedly males, were part of a group of seven who were caught in the rugged backcountry east of Aspen on Saturday. Officials have not released the names of the skiers.

One of the three survivors was released from a hospital Sunday, while two others were transferred to other medical centers and two more were unharmed, Lake County authorities said. The reported injuries included a broken leg, a broken ankle, a possible broken rib and a collapsed lung, county authorities said.

Searchers braved “very, very steep” terrain and high risks of another snowslide while following signals from the emergency beacons the skiers wore, Susan Matthews, another emergency management spokeswoman said Sunday.

A record level of snow this winter and changing wind patterns have combined to create “very unstable conditions” on Colorado mountains, Matthews said. “For those people who are not prepared to be in those backcountry conditions, unfortunate incidents happen.”

Saturday’s avalanche follows a string of deadly snowslides that killed six people last week — two each in Colorado, Utah and Oregon. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has issued warnings that cover much of the state’s ski country throughout the weekend. The center warns of “unusual conditions” in the Rocky Mountains — weak layers beneath the surface of the snowpack, rapid warming and strong winds — that can lead to “unusual and surprising avalanches.”

“We are seeing very dangerous avalanche conditions developing from basically the New Mexico border north to Wyoming,” the center said in an advisory issued Saturday. “And the problem list is about as complicated as it can get. We are seeing very large avalanches taking out very old trees, mine buildings that have been around for many decades, and avalanches burying roadways with 20 feet of debris.

“People have been getting caught and killed in avalanches recently. These are glaring, flashing and obvious clues that things are not all good across our backcountry. We are seeing a snowpack that is teetering on the brink of critical mass.”

CNN contributed to this report.

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