Doctor, 67, Dies in Colorado Avalanche

It appears Peter Harrelson may have not been killed upon impact
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2024 2:27 PM CST
Doctor, 67, Dies in Colorado Avalanche
   (Getty Images / Lana2011)

Colorado logged a grim happening on Monday: its first avalanche death of the season. The San Miguel County Sheriff's Office has confirmed that Dr. Peter Harrelson, a 67-year-old longtime Ophir resident, died during a backcountry trip near his hometown. The Montrose Daily Press reports Harrelson had set out to snowboard in the Waterfall Creek area around noon; a neighbor called authorities that evening to flag the fact he hadn't returned. A search ensued, and Harrelson's body was discovered Tuesday morning along with evidence that he survived the initial impact.

The Daily Press reports that with high-tech support, searchers managed to locate a hole where it appeared an avalanche victim had been trapped. There was blood near the hole, as well as footprints leading away from it. San Miguel County Coroner Emil Sante said it appears an avalanche that struck beneath treeline carried Harrelson as much as 300 feet. (The Colorado Avalanche Information Center, or CAIC, has a photo of the location here.)

Harrelson apparently managed to extricate himself and walk a further 200 to 300 feet before dying beneath some trees. He sustained traumatic injuries, but the cause of death is still being determined. CAIC says an average 27 people die in avalanches in the US each winter. The most avalanche fatalities Colorado has ever seen in a single season since detailed record-keeping began is 12. (More avalanche stories.)

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