Snowmobiler killed in avalanche near Colorado’s Rollins Pass was pinned beneath sled |

Snowmobiler killed in avalanche near Colorado’s Rollins Pass was pinned beneath sled

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
The avalanche that killed snowmobiler Michael "Tony" Westall wrapped 2,000 feet around the south face of Mount Epworth. This photo was taken Feb. 16, after additional snow and drifting.
Photo from Grand County Search and Rescue / Colorado Avalanche Information Center


DENVER — The father and son had throttled their snowmobiles up the steep, east-facing slope below Mount Epworth several times that Sunday afternoon.

Dad — 58-year-old Michael “Tony” Westall — went for a final charge up the hill. But instead of turning his machine around the high-point of his arc, he kept going across the hill. His 18-year-old son watched as the avalanche released and Westall and his sled were swept down the slope and into the small Pumphouse Lake at the bottom of the snowfield above treeline near Rollins Pass.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s final report on the Feb. 14 death of Westall is harrowing. His son desperately tried to free his father, who was buried under the snowmobile, “pinned in a slushy mix of avalanche debris and water,” reads the report investigated and written by CAIC’s Spencer Logan and Michael Floyd.

“Rider 2 was unable to free his father from the snowmobile, and used the shovel to prop his head out of the water,” reads the report. “Rider 1 was initially conscious, but eventually lost consciousness and stopped breathing.”

The son raced down the hill to get reception on his mobile phone and call for help. A Grand County Search and Rescue team member was at the trailhead near Winter Park’s Lakota neighborhood when he got the page and arrived at Pumphouse Lake 27 minutes after the son called 911.

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The Grand County rescuer was able to pull Westall from the debris and began resuscitation efforts. A second wave of Grand County rescuers, including a doctor, arrived and began advanced life support. But Westall, a father of four from Parker, could not be revived, marking the 10th of 11 Colorado avalanche deaths this season.

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