Michel Colville, 68, a textile artist, and her husband, Fred
Allendorf, 66, a professor emeritus at the nearby University of
Montana campus, were trapped and missing in the snow for hours
before they were rescued on Friday evening.
An 8-year-old boy buried in the snow also was pulled to safety from
a nearby yard about 90 minutes after the avalanche struck.
Colville died on Sunday night, Missoula police Sergeant Travis Welsh
said, but there was no information available about the nature or
extent of her injuries.
Allendorf, initially listed in critical condition, has since been
upgraded to serious condition at St. Patrick Hospital, while the
boy, who was not publicly identified, was listed in fair condition.
The avalanche swept down the side of Mount Jumbo during a blizzard
at an estimated speed of 120 miles per hour (190 km per hour) and
slammed into a neighborhood northeast of downtown, engulfing the
two-story house where Colville and Allendorf lived.
The slide may have been inadvertently unleashed by a snowboarder, or
others engaged in recreational activity, in an area of the mountain
placed off-limits in winter to provide range for foraging elk,
Welsh said investigators had interviewed several individuals who
were in the vicinity where the avalanche appeared to have
originated, but no arrests have been made and no charges were
Police are likely to consult with a local prosecutor to decide
whether to press ahead with a criminal investigation in the case, a
gray area because of the extreme rarity of an avalanche within city
limits, he said.
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"We've never had an avalanche in town that I'm aware of, so we
really don't know where this investigation will take us," Welsh
Welsh said the mountain is posted with signs warning of the closure
and that violators could be cited for criminal trespass, a
Almost all U.S. avalanches that affect people strike in the
backcountry of the mountainous West and are triggered by
snowmobilers, skiers and snowboarders seeking fresh powder,
according to federal avalanche experts.
Colville's death brings to 18 the number of people who have died in
avalanches in Western states so far this season, twice the tally for
this time last year, federal figures show.
Government specialists say the rise in killer avalanches stems in
part from unusually dense, wet snow that has blanketed the mountain
West in recent months after an extended dry spell weakened a base
layer of snow laid earlier in the season.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; editing by Steve Gorman and Lisa
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