Avalanche Hits Neighborhood

3 buried, 1 killed in Montana

Mar 3, 2014
Outside Magazine
OutsideOnline Avalanche News

Mountains    Anna Dudko/Thinkstock

A snowboarder triggered a destructive avalanche late Friday afternoon in Missoula, Montana, uprooting a home and leaving three buried in snow and debris. Mount Jumbo was reportedly primed for a slide after a hefty snow followed an unseasonably warm period. Triggered near the summit, the avalanche rifled through the Rattlesnake Valley neighborhood, burying an eight-year-old boy and two adults. All three were rescued alive.

The young boy, Phoenix Coburn, was reportedly playing in the street with his sister when the avalanche struck at speeds well over 110 mph. After nearly an hour, Phoenix was found buried under several feet of snow between a fence and one of the homes. The boy was immediately taken to the hospital, where he remains in fair condition. Phoenix’s sister was also hit by the avalanche but was able to free herself.

More than an hour after the slide, 66-year-old Fred Allendorf, a retired professor from the University of Montana, was extracted from his destroyed home. It wasn’t until three hours after the avalanche that Allendorf’s wife, Michel Colville, was found and rescued from a small air pocket in the debris. Allendorf and Colville are in serious and critical condition, respectively, in nearby St. Patrick Hospital. 

Many attribute the successful rescue effort to the quick thinking of surrounding neighbors. After realizing what had happened, many of the skiers and snowboarders in the community immediately grabbed their shovels and probes and began digging and searching for survivors.

Officials interviewed and later released a group of snowboarders above the slide. Authorities have yet to confirm the cause of the avalanche, but one snowboarder was apparently stuck in the slide and was able to escape before it gathered speed.

UPDATE: Michel Colville died Monday morning due to injuries sustained during the avalanche.

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