The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) performed avalanche mitigation on Loveland Pass this morning (3/31) at daybreak. During mitigation, at approximately 7:09, the Avalauncher being used this morning, 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 fair condition at this time.
CDOT regularly monitors 278 of the 522 known avalanche paths in Colorado. This device has been in use for almost 30 years by CDOT. 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, among others are also currently on scene as well.
This device utilizes compressed gas. Crews load the explosive into the Avalauncher device and once the explosive is launched the trigger detonates upon impact. For reasons, under investigation, the device detonated prematurely inside the Avalauncher. Once the cause is determined, action will be taken to correct this situation.
“We are taking this situation very seriously and will be looking into how to improve the safety of our crew members during avalanche reduction practices,” Said, Tony DeVito, Regional Transportation Director, said of this morning’s incident. “The safety of our crews and the traveling public are our top priority and we ask you keep these gentlemen in your thoughts today.”
This morning’s mitigation consisted of a three man crew. 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 yearly. CDOT is currently on a statewide stand down of the Avalauncher, but for the safety of the traveling public other methods of avalanche reduction will continue.
CDOT is taking all necessary actions to investigate this situation and ensure the safety of our crews for all future mitigations. Until family has been notified of this situation, the names and further release of their current conditions will not be released. Please keep these gentlemen in your thoughts today.