UPDATE: Lake County backcountry ski party identified
TWIN LAKES — The Lake County Office of Emergency Management has officially released the names of all seven skiers caught in an avalanche Saturday, Feb. 15 on Independence Pass in Lake County.
The two fatal victims, previously identified by an Associated Press report, were confirmed as Justin Lentz, 32, of Sun Prairie, Wis., and Jarrard Law, 34, of Portage, Wis. The five other members of the backcountry ski party are Carl Bryan, 51, Katie Bryan, 30, and Scott Smelcer, 28, all of Twin Lakes; and Ben Hartt, 38, and Seth Neilson, 30, both of Wisconsin.
The backcountry ski party reportedly was traversing the top of a ridge with their five companions at about 5 p.m. Saturday when they triggered the avalanche. The group was located on Star Peak about a mile from the LaPlata parking area off Colorado Highway 82 on the Twin Lakes side of Independence Pass in Lake County.
The five survivors were accounted for after the slide. Of those, three were taken to St. Vincent Hospital in Leadville with injuries that reportedly included a broken leg, a broken ankle and a possible broken rib and collapsed lung.
The Lake County Office of Emergency Management did not identify the injured parties. One of those three has since been released from the hospital. The two other skiers escaped the avalanche unharmed.
Lentz and Law went unaccounted for after Saturday’s avalanche. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office announced at approximately 12:30 p.m. Sunday that search and rescuers had recovered their bodies.
Both men were wearing avalanche beacons, Susan Matthews, public information officer for the Lake County Office of Emergency Management, told the Associated Press.
The cause of the avalanche remains under investigation, said Brian Lazar, deputy director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
Among the participating agencies in the search and rescue effort were the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the Lake County Emergency Manager, Lake County Public Works, St. Vincent Hospital EMS, Leadville/Lake County Fire and Rescue, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center; Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment and Lake County Search and Rescue teams.
Three members of the Summit County Rescue Group also participated in search and rescue efforts, said that group’s public information officer Charles Pitman.
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