The third avalanche fatality in the US for the 2012-2013 Season was reported at the Snowmass Ski Area, Colorado. On December 30, 2012, at 1:37 pm, veteran Snowmass ski patroller Patsy Hileman was announced dead after an avalanche swept her over a cliff, according to official reports from the Colorado Avalanche and Information Center.

The 49-year-old Hileman, a Snowmass patroller for 26 years, was last seen at work around 10:30 in the morning on the day of the accident. An examination of her ski tracks revealed that she descended through Ships Prow Glades, a permanently closed area in the Hanging Valley Wall. Unable to reach her by radio, other members of the Snowmass Patrol initiated a search in locations surrounding her work station at 12:45 pm.

40 minutes later, Hileman was found lying face down on the snow surface and concluded dead due to blunt force trauma to the chest and back. CAIC reports say that she might have fallen at least 100 to 150 feet off the cliff. Hileman skied at the bottom of the glade and might have triggered the crown of a previous avalanche. Though the avalanche was quite small in size, it was large enough to wash her over the edge of the cliff.

SkiCo, Hileman’s employer, said in a statement that the company is unaware of the reasons why the ski patroller was skiing in the said area before the avalanche occurred. On December 27, three days before Hileman’s accident, an explosive avalanche release was executed as part of the ski area’s avalanche hazard mitigation program; this consequently triggered the previous avalanche. The explosive avalanche release method seeks to cause small avalanches at specific times.

According to national statistics, an average of 25 people dies in avalanches every year over the last 10 winters in the US. The US National, State, and Metropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates say that ski patrol ranked among America’s 25 worst-paying jobs, with a mean annual wage of $18,410, not to mention one of the most dangerous and life-threatening jobs as well.

It is standard procedure for the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to conduct an investigation for any job-related fatality in workplaces or company properties to see if any state or federal laws are violated.

Article 42 of the Colorado Workers’ Compensation Act of 2012 states that dependents of a deceased employee are entitled to death benefits or compensation of “66 and 2/3 percent of the worker’s average weekly wages, not to exceed a maximum of 91% of the state average weekly wage for accidents that occur by July 1, 1989, and not less than a minimum of 25% of the applicable maximum per week”.

They shall also be entitled to an assistance “paid in one lump sum within 30 days after death a sum not to exceed seven thousand dollars for reasonable funeral and burial expenses”, aside from other sums of compensation entitled to the family or dependents of the deceased worker.

Do you have issues with your workers’ compensation claims? Kaplan Morrell’s workers’ compensation attorneys have over 30 years of combined experience in helping workers claim what is due to them. We help widows and orphans of deceased workers get the benefits they deserve. Call us today at 303-780-7329 for a Free Consultation.