Avalanche Victim Identified
The man killed in Sunday’s large avalanche in the Five Fingers area outside Aspen Highlands ski area has been identified as John William Jensen. Jensen, 32, most recently lived in New Mexico and California. Jensen was in Aspen participating in a Level II avalanche education course with local guide service Aspen Expeditions. One of a party of six in the Highlands backcountry Sunday, he was the only skier caught in the slide.The Pitkin County Coroner’s Office said Jensen died of asphyxiation. Initial reports from the scene on Sunday indicated that Jensen had broken at least one femur and suffered head trauma during the slide, but Pitkin County Coroner Steven Ayers said that was not case. “We were all kind of surprised,” Ayers said Monday. “There must have been something about his clothing that made it look like [he had broken his legs], but there was no fracture or anything.”And the head trauma was mostly vomit and some facial swelling and bruising and abrasions” – injuries Ayers described as superficial. Ayers added that Jensen was “apparently a student.” “He had done some work at Los Alamos in New Mexico and some kind of work in California,” Ayers said.The avalanche, which was reported by a skier on top of Highland Peak at 2:45 p.m., carried Jensen between 3,500 and 4,000 feet down a gully before coming to a stop on a knoll above the floor of the Conundrum Creek Valley. It’s estimated that Jensen was buried for about 20 minutes. Ayers said he did not know deep Jensen was buried, “but I can’t imagine it was that deep for him to be extricated that quickly.”A spokeswoman from Aspen Expeditions released a statement to the Times Monday afternoon:”Aspen expeditions is continuing to investigate the circumstances of this tragic incident,” she said. “We understand that efforts are being made to contact [the victim’s] family members, and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to them.”Steve Benson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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