Three backcountry skiers are dead after a Monday avalanche in Colorado's San Juan Mountains, a loss particularly felt in Eagle County. All three men served in local government in some way. Andy Jensen was mayor pro tempore of the Eagle Town Council, Adam Palmer was the county's sustainable communities director, and Seth Bossung, an architect, served as the county's energy efficiency project manager, reports the Denver Post. Though police have yet to identify the victims, town and county leaders announced the deaths of the "friends and leaders" in a joint statement on Wednesday "so we can all openly acknowledge their deaths and grieve together." "We all hoped they would be found alive," Mary Ann Morrison, administrator with the Eagle Chamber of Commerce, says of the buried victims. "Unfortunately that didn't happen."
The three were caught in an avalanche in San Juan County between Silverton and Ophir. A fourth skier was found with minor injuries. But search efforts were suspended Tuesday due to the risk of avalanche. By Tuesday evening, the effort was focused on recovery. The men were wearing location beacons, but officials said extracting the bodies would be a challenge. Confirmation of the recovery had yet to come Wednesday afternoon, per the Denver Channel. Morrison says the deaths are "a real loss" for the rural community. "Their contributions … have helped shape the community in ways that will be forever lasting," per the statement. Eagle Mayor Scott Turnipseed became emotional reading it during a virtual news conference Wednesday. "I'm sorry I broke down," he said. "I just want everyone to know there's a very personal connection here." (This follows other deadly avalanches.)