The Missoula County attorney has decided not to file charges against a snowboarder who triggered an urban avalanche.
Fred Van Valkenburg announced his decision Monday afternoon after reviewing the case for over a week.
The snowboarder triggered an avalanche on Mount Jumbo late in the afternoon in February. That slide demolished homes in a Rattlesnake neighborhood and buried three people, killing one.
Below is the press release:
Missoula County Attorney, Fred Van Valkenburg, announced today that his office will not file any charges against anyone in connection with the avalanche that occurred on Mount Jumbo on February 28th. Van Valkenburg said that the police investigation into the incident did not indicate that there was any evidence of criminal intent or even criminal negligence on the part of four young men who were snowboarding or sledding on Mount Jumbo at the time the avalanche occurred. Missoula Police had previously recommended that no charges be filed against any of the four.
Van Valkenburg said that his review of the incident, as County Attorney with the authority to prosecute felony offenses, centered on whether there was sufficient evidence to charge anyone with Negligent Homicide in relation to the death of Michel Colville or a serious misdemeanor such as Negligent Endangerment in relation to the injuries suffered by Fred Allendorf and Phoenix Coles-Scoburn, an eight year old boy who was a neighbor of Colville and Allendorf. "In order to prove criminal negligence, there would have to have been some significant facts establishing gross negligence or a conscious disregard for the lives of others. In this case, there was no such evidence," Van Valkenburg said. He further added that the police informed him that Allendorf and Erin Scoles, the mother of the eight year old, had told them that they had no objection to the recommendation to not file any charges.
Van Valkenburg said that, while there was some evidence to believe that a trespass had been committed on a portion of Mount Jumbo closed to protect elk, he believed that it was more appropriate for the City Attorney to decide whether there was a sufficient legal basis to charge that offense since the City of Missoula generally handles prosecution of trespassing within its jurisdiction.