Snowboarders facing criminal charges for avalanche above I-70 lose critical battle in court

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun

Two snowboarders have lost a critical legal battle in the criminal charges they face related to an avalanche that buried a service road above Interstate 70 in March.

A Summit County Court judge delivered a setback to their defense on Tuesday when he dismissed a motion to suppress a GoPro video of the avalanche that Evan Hannibal and Tyler DeWitt captured and gave to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

The video anchors the Summit County District Attorney’s case against Hannibal and DeWitt, who are charged with reckless endangerment and face a $168,000 fine. The case marks the first-ever criminal charges filed against skiers involved in an avalanche in Colorado.

The district attorney argues that Hannibal and DeWitt endangered drivers when they skied above the west portal of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels on March 25 and they should pay $168,000 to replace an avalanche mitigation system destroyed in the slide the CAIC said they triggered.

The snowboarders on Tuesday argued prosecutors violated their protection from unlawful search and seizure when they issued criminal charges based on the helmet-cam video. The men gave the video to avalanche center investigators, hoping it could be used to craft a report so others might avoid a similar slide.

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