Snowmobiler caught in avalanche presumed dead

(Photo: MGN Online)

(Photo: MGN Online)

LA PLATA COUNTY, Colo. — A snowmobiler caught in an avalanche near Sharkstooth Peak in the La Plata Mountains is presumed dead after authorities called off their search, The Cortez Journal reported.

“We’re officially calling it a recovery now,” Montezuma County Undersheriff Lynda Carter told the Journal Thursday night. “If there was a chance he was still alive, we’d be moving heaven and Earth, but it’s just too dangerous to go up there for a recovery.”

The missing snowmobiler has been identified as Montezuma County resident Robert “Rob” Yates.

Four others — Chris Sharp, Bryce Rogers, Rodney Rule and Rod Oliver — were caught in the snowslide in southwest Colorado on Wednesday. They were able to dig themselves out and escaped with minor cuts and scrapes.

The size of the slide is estimated at 100 yards wide and three-quarters of a mile long with a debris flow that is 30 feet deep. It’s at 10,500 feet on the northeast side of Sharkstooth, in the Bear Creek drainage.

Officials say the avalanche occurred in a steep chute as Yates was trying to free a stuck snowmobile.

“We did manage to dig out the snowmobile (Thursday) to see if he was in a pocket, but we didn’t find anything other than the sled and helmet we found Wednesday,” Carter told The Journal.