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CDOT Explosion That Injured 2 May Have Been Caused By Faulty Device

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LOVELAND PASS, Colo. (CBS4) – The explosion that injured two state workers during avalanche mitigation may have been caused by a problem with the device used for mitigation.

The two state employees were injured Monday morning after an explosive used in avalanche mitigation detonated prematurely.

A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Labor said that operator error is being ruled out. That leaves the focus on two areas — a faulty explosive or a problem with the device that fires the explosive charges.

The device is called an “Avalauncher” and uses compressed gas to fire mortar rounds into unstable snow to bring it safely down the slopes. It’s produced by an Aspen-based company called “Avalanche Mitigation Services” owned by John Brennan.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has used the Avalauncher for approximately 30 years, and the specific device involved in the incident for 8 years. It has fired 800 rounds this season without a problem — until now.

On the AMS website CDOT said in a testimonial “we have found these Avalaunchers to be safe, efficient and very dependable.” Its use by CDOT has been halted until the investigation determines exactly what went wrong.

The injured were behind their vehicles placed in an “L” position, but shrapnel from the misfire struck two of them in the upper body.

In 1991 a Ski Patrol leader at the Whistler Ski Area in British Columbia was killed when a shell fired prematurely.

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