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Authorities warn of dangerous avalanche conditions ahead of MLK Day weekend

Four Coloradans died in avalanches over the past three weekends.

COLORADO, USA — Four Coloradans have died in avalanches over the past three weekends, and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) hopes to prevent more.

CAIC warned this week of dangerous avalanche conditions in the backcountry this Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. In a news release, the organization's director said Colorado has seen more avalanches so far this year than it does in a typical year, and recently, those avalanches gotten much bigger.

On Saturday, two snowmobilers were killed in an avalanche near Winter Park. 

Mike Duffy, a snowmobile and avalanche safety instructor, said his class was a half-mile away when the avalanche happened. He said they raced over and helped pull out one of the men.

"The students that were leading noticed the avalanche and radioed back that there was someone in it, and we proceeded on scene and did the best we could," he said on Thursday. "They were sharp, and they were on that transceiver in a minute, and you know, had to dig the person out. It's sad to see because the avalanche forecast was spot on that day."

Credit: Danielle Devereux
Bruce Dejong, 58, was identified by the Grand County Coroner's Office on Tuesday . He was a Colorado resident.

Bruce Dejong and Darrin Kaderka were identified as the two men who were buried.

Dejong's daughter, Danielle, told 9NEWS he was a caring and loving man who enjoyed adventure. He loved riding his Harley Davidson. A GoFundMe was created to help offset funeral costs.

Credit: Scott and Susan Butters
Darrin Kaderka, 52, was identified by the Grand County Coroner's Office on Tuesday as an avalanche victim. He was a Colorado resident.

Kaderka was an automotive technician for Bullhide 4x4. The owners, Scott and Susan Butters, shared a few words following his death.

"The Bullhide 4x4 family is in shock and very sad to have lost one of our own, Darrin Kaderka this past weekend," the statement said. "He has worked for us since 2011 as an automotive technician and was a very special person to all of us who have worked with him and who knew him.

"He was such a kind and thoughtful human being who also was a good listener and who wanted to be able to help in anyway he could for what life threw our way," the statement said. "He was selfless and caring, and his presence, attitude and friendship will be missed very much by us all."

Kaderka's friends encouraged people to make a contribution to Grand County Search and Rescue on his behalf.

Credit: Mike Duffy
Mike Duffy's students take part in an avalanche rescue course in Wyoming.

Duffy said that avalanche deaths never get easy. He said six of the nine students who rushed to the scene that day had completed an avalanche rescue class the week before.

Ahead of the busy weekend, he said he hopes others consider taking a course before heading to the backcountry.

"There's a lot of danger out there right now," Duffy said. "Doesn't mean you don't go in the backcountry. You just have to pick the right terrain. People need to make good decisions this weekend."

He encouraged people to look at the avalanche forecast before heading out. He stressed to not just look at the avalanche danger rating but at the forecast summary that tells people where to go and where not to go.


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