“Dude, we just buried the road.”
That was snowboarder Tyler DeWitt’s comment after he and Evan Hannibal allegedly triggered an avalanche in Summit County, Colorado.
GoPro footage from the two backcountry snowboarders is being used as evidence against them in a case of reckless endangerment, KDVR reported.
Prosecutors want them to pay Colorado $168,000 for the damage caused by the avalanche, according to the Vail Daily.
DeWitt, 38, and Hannibal, 26, were snowboarding on March 25 in the White River National Forest above the Eisenhower Tunnel, the Daily reported. They are accused of causing a large slab of snow to shift and cascade down the mountain, burying the road below, according to KDVR.
The avalanche was “large enough to bury and destroy a car, damage a truck, destroy a wood frame house or break a few trees,” the Colorado Avalanche Information Center reported.
“The avalanche damaged a remote avalanche control unit … and covered over 400 feet of the roadway with debris up to 20 feet deep,” the agency said.
The avalanche control unit called an O’Bellx — a piece of equipment that costs $120,000 — is used to trigger small avalanches to decrease the risk of larger ones, according to the Daily.
“If the system is designed to prevent large avalanches, it certainly hadn’t in that case,” Hannibal told the Daily.
There were no vehicles on the service road, which is mostly used by state transportation workers, at the time and no one was injured, KDVR reported.
Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown chose to charge the two snowboarders with one count of reckless endangerment each because of the potential disaster that could have occurred, according to the TV station.
“They recognized that there was a risk but they went down that chute anyway,” said Brown, according to KDVR. “With an interstate that has 100,000 cars going across it every week, it could’ve been a disaster.”
The misdemeanor charge would usually only result in a $750 fine and up to six months in the county jail, the TV station reported. But since the state had to pay so much money to clear the road and replace the avalanche equipment, Brown is seeking $168,000 in restitution from them.
“The pair was clearly worried about avalanche conditions but proceeded down the path anyway,” Brian Metzger, a Summit County Sheriff’s Office special operations technician who responded after the snowboarders called in the incident, told the Vail Daily.
“Clearly we made a mistake,” Hannibal told the newspaper. “But this is not the only area in Colorado where people have snowboarded with a road nearby that has the potential to be buried should a slide occur, and I’ve never heard of anyone receiving a criminal penalty for making a mistake like this.”
The snowboarders both pleaded not guilty at their first court appearance on Sept. 28, according to KDVR. A judge is expected to set their trial date on Oct. 27.