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Missoula City Attorney – Police Investigation Recommends No Charges Against Snowboarder Who Caused Avalanche [AUDIO]

Rattlesnake Avalanche
photo courtesy of Western Region Avalanche Center

What has come to be known as an urban avalanche on February 28, was caused by human activity on Mount Jumbo  that resulted in one fatality and two others buried under the slide that destroyed two homes. 

Missoula City Attorney Jim Nugent said on Thursday, April 3, after an investigation that spanned several weeks, that police officials have recommended no charges be filed against those who caused the fatal avalanche.

“The reason police are recommending that no charges be filed are that the hikers in the area didn’t know about the seasonal closure,” Nugent said. “It’s quite plausible that the route they took didn’t come near any signage, and if they did, that the blowing snow and weather conditions covered up the signage so it could not have been seen. Police also say they have no evidence to refute the claim that the individuals didn’t know about the closure.”

Nugent said there were several individuals who hiked up Mount Jumbo that day to take advantage of the heavy snowfall.

“They ended up getting separated with the snowboarder being by himself, and the other folks going further up in the valley to go sledding,” Nugent said. “Police don’t believe there’s sufficient evidence that the individuals knew about the closure. Trespassing, under state law, means you have to prove that they knowingly trespassed, and the burden on the prosecution is always that you have to prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. The police report itself states right in it that they’re recommending no charges be filed.”

Nugent said his office is the final authority if there were any charges to be filed in the city, but the county attorney’s office would have to determine if a felony had been committed.

“It’s my understanding after talking with the police department and members of my staff that the county has declined to file any charges.”

Michel Jo Colville was killed by the avalanche, while her husband Fred Allendorf and eight year-old Phoenix Scoles survived the slide.

Missoula City Attorney Jim Nugent

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