Families of Injured Workers Request Privacy Following Incident

March 31, 2014 - Metro Denver Colorado/CDOT Region 1, Northwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 3 - The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) performed avalanche mitigation on Loveland Pass this morning at daybreak.

During mitigation, at approximately 7:09, the Avalauncher prematurely detonated within the barrel injuring two state employees. The employees injured, one CDOT employee and one employed from our partners at Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) are both in serious and fair condition respectively.

The families of the injured gentlemen have been notified and have declined to talk to the media at this time. CDOT and the families have agreed to not release the names of the injured for security and privacy reasons. Both employees who were injured this morning are seasoned avalanche crew members, well trained and practiced in avalanche and explosive safety. CDOT has been utilizing this device for over 30 years and this is the first incident of this nature to occur.

“We take the safety of our crews and that of the traveling public very seriously,” Tony DeVito, CDOT Region 1 Transportation Director said. “The investigation into this incident will be extensive and we will evaluate our practices accordingly when the investigation concludes. We have decided to stand down on all further mitigations using the Avalauncher until further notice and will be utilizing our other methods of avalanche reduction in its place.”

CDOT regularly monitors 278 of the 522 known avalanche paths in Colorado. This particular Avalauncher has been used for the past 8 years, firing over 800 rounds this avalanche season alone. CDOT has triggered 41 avalanches, including the one this morning on Loveland Pass, since November 1, 2013. A thorough investigation being led by the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Department is ongoing at the scene. CDOT, Oil and Public Safety, who regulate the use of explosives within the State of Colorado, CAIC and others are on scene assisting in the investigation.

For reasons, under investigation, the device detonated prematurely inside the Avalauncher. Once the cause is determined, action will be taken to correct this situation. Each member of all avalanche mitigation crews, attend extensive, week long explosives training every fall in addition to avalanche safety training that is also completed annually.

Please continue to keep these gentlemen in your thoughts today.