KEYSTONE, Colo. -- The Summit County Coroner identifies a man killed in an avalanche Monday afternoon as 46-year-old Kevin Kuybus of Highlands Ranch.
About 40 search and rescue groups from around Summit County recovered his body about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday in an out-of-bounds area south of Keystone.
He died of blunt force chest trauma.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office says Kuybus and another man took a Snowcat ride from Keystone to the furthest back mountain. But then, went out of bounds.
Investigators say it was a deadly decision.
Kuybus and another skier got caught in the violent back-country avalanche that ran up to 2,500 feet long and 300-feet wide. The other unidentified skier was able to dig himself out and call for help.
“It was a very large slide and trees were flagged as far as 15 to 20 ft. That means branches were torn off that high. It was a very substantial slide,” says Charles Pitman with Summit County Rescue Group.
Volunteers pulled the man’s body from beneath five- to six-feet of snow in the middle of the slide in what’s called the Vega Bowl off The Outback near Keystone.
Crews found the victim on their second day of searching—thanks in part to RECCO reflectors—which are embedded into clothing and gear.
But crews say the technology is no substitute for beacons which neither skier had.
“If I get caught in a slide, he can turn his (beacon) to ‘search,’ and he can locate me in two minutes and save my life,” says one volunteer about their beacons.
The skiers got caught out-of-bounds. But it’s unclear if they did it willingly or by accident.
“It’s very difficult to second guess their decision. These individuals understood the area was sketchy and they stayed close to the trees, which is a smart thing do. It let loose on them,” says Pitman.
Now, they must determine what triggered the slide—turning a day of adventure into danger and death.
Avalanche conditions for the next day or two are high. On a scale of one to five, it’s a four.
And another storm is moving in Wednesday.
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