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US avalanche control workers injured in shell blast

02 April 2014

Two state workers were injured, one seriously, after an avalanche shell exploded on March 31 while they were attempting to fire it onto a snow-covered mountainside above Georgetown, Colorado. One man worked for the Colorado Department of Transportation(CDOT) and the other for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). A third worker at the scene was not hurt.

Stock image
Stock image

They were standing behind vehicles in the area about 50 miles west of Denver when the shell detonated prematurely in the barrel of the device, injuring the men above the waist, Department of Transportation spokesman Tony DeVito said.

CAIC is a state agency that issues daily forecasts of avalanche danger, and CDOT regularly monitors hundreds of known avalanche paths in Colorado that might affect transport routes .

The shells are fired using compressed gas launchers up mountainsides to set off controlled avalanches to protect drivers and winter sports enthusiasts.  CDOT and CAIC fire thousands of rounds a year, and there have been no serious injuries to ground workers reported in decades.
The device that misfired has been used for the past eight years and has fired over 800 rounds this avalanche season.

According to local sources, CDOT said it will carry out an inquiry into the accident.

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