Five snowboarders killed after triggering a 600-yard-wide avalanche Saturday in Loveland Pass, Colo., have been identified by authorities.
All were Colorado residents, male and in their 30s. The Clear Creek Sheriff's Office announced on Sunday morning that the fatal victims were: Rick Gaukel, 33; Ian Lamphere, 36; Ryan Novack, 33; Christopher Peters, 32; and Joseph Timlin, 32.
"As rescuers, what we've been dealing with lately is avalanches that are sort of like angry sleeping dogs," said Dale Atkins, president of the American Avalanche Association and a member of the Alpine Rescue Team, to The Denver Post. "They are unreactive for a long period of time, but with recent heavy snows and the deep weakness, somebody in the wrong place at the wrong time can bring a whole mountainside down."
Their bodies were recovered by search and rescue crews hours after the backcountry avalanche, Sheriff Don Krueger said.
A sixth snowboarder, who has not been publicly identified, survived after digging himself out of the snow and calling for help.
All six of the snowboarders had avalanche beacons.
"I feel really bad for these guys. I think they were trying to do a lot of things right. These weren't guys who were reckless and didn't care. They all had gear, and I think they cared about making good decisions," said Tim Brown, a Summit County avalanche forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, to the Post. "This is an important message right now. You can do a lot of things right but still be caught in a dangerous situation."
Loveland Pass is located in the Rocky Mountains of north-central Colorado and contains the highest mountain pass in the world. The pass is a popular destination for backcountry skiers and snowboarders. The snowboarders likely took advantage of the late season snowfall earlier this week, which kept ski resorts busy with patrons this weekend.
Saturday's five deaths marked Colorado's deadliest avalanche since 1962, when seven people died at Twin Lakes near Independence Pass.