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Family of 2019 Avalanche Victim Drops Lawsuit Against the Silverton Avalanche School

— December 22, 2021

The family of Peter Marshall, who was killed in an avalanche in 2019, is no longer suing the Silverton Avalanche School for wrongful death.

A lawsuit filed by the family of Peter Marshall against the Silverton Avalanche School was recently dismissed. Marshall was killed in an avalanche “near Red Mountain Pass as he participated in an avalanche safety class” with the school. Despite the family dropping the suit against the school, it is still suing K2 Sports and its company Backcountry Access. Those companies specialize in making the “airbag backpack that was not deployed when rescuers found Marshall buried in more than 8 feet of avalanche debris.”

Person Skiing
Person Skiing; image courtesy of Up-Free via Pixabay,

The product liability complaint, which was filed in Boulder District Court, stated, “Peter Marshall attempted to trigger his Float 32 avalanche airbag system but it did not fully deploy or inflate.” It’s important to note that the lawsuit does not go into detail about how the “family determined Marshall attempted to deploy the airbag but failed.

K2 Sports is owned by Kohlberg & Company, a private equity firm. So far it has pushed back against the allegations and said the “airbag was not defective and the losses suffered by the Marshall family were the result of voluntary acts and not caused by any act or omission by the pack manufacturer. Additionally, lawyers representing K2 Sports “cited 16 facts they believe eliminate the company’s liability in their request that the judge dismiss the case.”

At the time of the accident, Marshall was taking part in an advanced avalanche safety class near Red Mountain Pass back on January 5, 2019. Unfortunately, he was “was swept down a slope in an avalanche that caught five other skiers.” Four of those skiers weren’t buried. One of the others that were buried was able to get himself out. When Marshall was freed from the debris, he wasn’t breathing and his “Backcountry Access Float 32 pack, which has a trigger that must be yanked to inflate an airbag that can buoy a skier to the top of moving snow, was not inflated.

Investigators with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said the “airbag backpack was functioning properly, with the trigger out of the pack strap, but the bag was not deployed.” About two years after the tragic incident, Marshall’s wife filed a lawsuit against San Juan Search and Rescue, the Silverton Avalanche School, and the school’s guide, Zachary Lovell. In the wrongful death suit, the family argued that “Backcountry Access made a defective airbag…and the school, guide, and pack-maker created substantial and unreasonable risks of serious injury and death to participants in the safety class.”

The Silverton Avalanche School is one of the oldest avalanche education schools in the country. Marshall was “participating in the school’s Level 2 American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education class for backcountry skiers seeking advanced skills for traveling in avalanche terrain.”


Family of Colorado avalanche victim drops lawsuit against school and guide, targets maker of airbag

AMBER MARSHALL vs. BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS, INC., a Colorado corporation, and K2 SPORTS, LLC, an Indiana limited liability company

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