After a miraculous rescue from Friday’s avalanche on Mount Jumbo, Michel Colville – the last victim to be pulled from the snow – died Sunday night at St. Patrick Hospital.

According to Missoula police, Colville, 68, succumbed to injuries suffered when the slide hit her lower Rattlesnake Valley home, burying Colville and her husband, Fred Allendorf, who remains hospitalized in serious condition.

The couple’s 8-year-old neighbor, Phoenix Scoles-Coburn, was playing in his yard at the time the avalanche hit and was also buried. He was the first to be rescued and is now expected to make a full recovery.

Scoles-Coburn’s 10-year-old sister, Coral, was partially buried by the snow but was able to free herself.

Marion Lavery, a friend of Colville and Allendorf, is mourning the loss of her beloved friend, who she described as a vibrant artist with a gusto for life.

“It’s surreal,” Lavery said. “It’s unimaginable to be sitting in your living room one minute and to be in chaos – surrounded by snow – the next.”

Allendorf was found by rescue workers trapped beneath the remains of the home’s brick chimney. He told rescuers his wife was standing to his east when the avalanche hit.

Colville’s rescue came nearly three hours after the avalanche trapped her under snow, the debris of her home and power lines. Rescue workers couldn’t begin to dig her out until the power company turned off the electricity.

She was transported to the hospital immediately and was in critical condition throughout the weekend. Members of the Missoula Women’s Choir sang to her while she was in the intensive care unit Sunday afternoon, Lavery said.

As a member of the choir, Colville had a wonderful voice, Lavery said.

“I loved to listen to her sing,” she said.

Colville took voice lessons and Lavery recalled a beautiful recital that Colville performed in a few years ago.

***

As an artist, Colville was known for her fiber art – pieces of clothing that she would embellish to create wearable art. Judy Hartz, a board member of the Missoula Cultural Council, described some of the pieces that Colville created a few years ago – a vest that incorporated seashells and a white-felted wool jacket with a floral appliqué down the front.

“She was innovative and free spirited,” Hartz said.

Though in recent years Colville was known as an artist, she was trained as a wildlife biologist and “loved all creatures great and small,” Lavery said. She enjoyed seeing wild animals in their natural habitat.

She also had a passion for rivers and oceans, and enjoyed kayaking.

Colville and Allendorf planned and eventually built her new art studio as a top-floor addition to their home.

The studio was beautiful, Lavery said. And Colville had recently organized her stashes of fabric and art supplies in the upper level.

Now that studio, along with the entire home, is destroyed. Neighbors spent Saturday and Sunday attempting to salvage the couple’s belongings from the wreckage but much remains to do – and much was destroyed by the force of the avalanche, estimated to have come downhill at 120 mph.

“She certainly is going to be missed by whole communities of folks – the paddlers, the singers and the artists,” Lavery said.

​Reach the Missoulian newsroom at @missoulian, at newsdesk@missoulian.com or at (406) 523-5240

(30) comments

max_raa
max_raa

This is pretty clear cut: according to MT Code Annotated 2013, "Negligent homicide. (1) A person commits the offense of negligent homicide if the person negligently causes the death of another human being.
(2) Negligent homicide is not an included offense of deliberate homicide as defined in 45-5-102(1)(b).
(3) A person convicted of negligent homicide shall be imprisoned in the state prison for any term not to exceed 20 years or be fined an amount not to exceed $50,000, or both."

One can be sure that if the law doesn't do its job by prosecuting the snowboarder, then the family of the victim could sue him for every penny he's worth, and more. He confessed his crime to the police. Mt. Jumbo is closed in the winter to people. It's not like it's a secret. Snowboarding on a closed mountain in avalanche conditions above a residential neighborhood is/was negligent, and it resulted in homicide. Period. They need to prosecute and make an example of this fool. They should at least tell the public who he is!

ds
ds

Negligence requires a certain element of foreseeability. Could a reasonable person have foreseen the consequences of the action? When was the last time there has been an avalanche on Mt. Jumbo, or anywhere in Missoula for that matter? Even if it is argued that the snowboarders broke the law by going up there, the law wasn't there to protect against avalanches--it was there to protect elk. If elk had been hurt or harassed, then yes, the snowboarders could be held responsible. But an avalanche? Maybe if law enforcement had warned about the avalanche danger, but no one knew of it until it happened.

How would you know that even if there hadn't been anyone up there, the avalanche wouldn't have happened anyway, if not then, perhaps later that night, the next morning, and certainly after the weather warmed?

This is one of those tragedies that find no one to blame. It will be hard enough for the snowboarders to live with this, much less have to suffer a criminal penalty for something NO ONE could have foreseen.

You are a very hard person.

BWO
BWO

Very sad. A true no-sense event. Peace be with you.

Sukey
Sukey

This story moved me to tears. I'm so, so sorry for everyone, even the kids who apparently caused it by snowboarding, if that's really how this avalanche started. Its been a really hard winter for all of us in America. Try to be kind to someone today.

PelosiGalore
PelosiGalore

After the heroic efforts of an entire community coming together it is so sad now to suffer this loss. Hopefully some positive things will come out of this tragedy. My prayers for the family.

theJdogg
theJdogg

Let's leave felony charges off the table when we don't know all the facts. The authorities haven't informed us of much about these boarders. Just because they were up there illegally, doesn't mean they are responsible. this is America where we got reasonable doubt. Couldn't an elk cause an avalanche as well?

Kojack
Kojack

Either the snowboarders were lacking intelligence or morals. I love to snowmobile but I do not highmark my friends when their stuck. There should be some charges brought for illegally snowboarding in that area and causing a slide. Also that is a bad area to live in general, its like having a home on a river bend and not expecting a flood.

ford
ford

So its illegal to be on jumbo at all in the winter? Im asking honestly. I know some of the trails are closed in the winter, but i have never heard you weren't allowed to set foot on that hill. Could someone please elaborate on this please? ------- luce, could you at least let the police / DA decide if what was done is illegal before you throw these kids in prison. I seriously doubt they meant to kill anyone. This was an accident in its truest form. The folks out there aren't murderers, they were playing in the snow for gods sake.

Roger
Roger

You still don't get it? Yes, the area is closed to humans this time of year to protect wintering elk. The snowboarders were not supposed to be there!

Objective observer
Objective observer

Only the "L" trail and the I-90 trail remain open in winter.

http://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/3219

Luce
Luce

So utterly tragic. I hope Mr. Allendorf recovers and with the support of his family and friends, can put his life back together.

But what I don't understand is why no charges have been filed. These "snow enthusiasts" could now face involuntary manslaughter charges. They were breaking the law by being there, let alone snowboarding. Or are the "snow enthusiasts" going to treated like the "bridge jumping enthusiast" who also ruined people's lives by his illegal actions.

Meanwhile, the community is left to clean up their messes--literally, in the case of the avalanche. Not to mention, we're expected to donate money to help these people. Why don't the "snow enthusiasts" pony up? Seriously, I'm tired of having to clean up and pay for other people's reckless mistakes. All the while the legal system stands by and "investigates" for months on end.

And I can only hope their homeowner's insurance covers avalanches . . . or is it like flood insurance that requires a special rider?

Dcmissoula
Dcmissoula

Luce: You need a healthy dose of common sense. How is snowboarding illegal in this area? Explain yourself.

Roger
Roger

Well, the area is closed this time of the year to protect wintering elk, so the snowboarders were not supposed to be there.

DVanVorous
DVanVorous

The area above where this happened happens to be a WMA and closed to use, look it up on the DFG web site. There are also other articles published by the Missoulian on this story that cover this little detail.

Dcmissoula
Dcmissoula

Thank you. I still wonder if not a snowboarder, would the community be outraged If a heard of elk triggered the avalanche.

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

Sad deal. I understand what you are saying to a certain extent but I must admit I'm not certain how the law reads. This we know (I think) 1. The slide was triggered likely by humans. 2. Those people weren't supposed to be where they were.

The thing to remember is the area was closed to protect wintering elk and not because of a safety issue (I think) I am sure in the future on years like this slide potential in that area will be emphasized much more but really I do not believe anyone in their wildest dreams (even the experts) would have anticipated a large slide there. If they had, there would likely have been more warnings and information to educate the public.

Will be curious to see how this plays out. My thoughts are with the families of all involved.

Nick D
Nick D

Please. This is a horrible tragedy, but attitudes like this only serve to make it worse. The causal chain between the snowboarder's actions and the terrible injuries that ensued is so tenuous that nobody in their right mind would charge this. How was it possibly foreseeable that this would happen? Ticket the kid for being in a closed area and move on to activities that might positively contribute to healing and helping the impacted families.

familytruckster
familytruckster

Agreed, Nick D.

Tracker
Tracker

A few things, Luce:
There is no "involuntary manslaughter" charge in Montana law, so that leads me to understand that you are not from here.
Why are you putting "snow enthusiasts" in quotes all over the place? Who said that "snow enthusiasts" that you are quoting?
Whose "reckless mistakes" are you so tired of paying for in this context? Do you imagine that this kind of once-in-a-lifetime event is somehow draining your bank account?
Get over yourself. We Montanans are much more kind than you just portrayed yourself to be. If you can't adjust to life here, please have the good grace to go home.

MontanaTom
MontanaTom

Sad story for sure, but the volunteers were amazing so kudos to them! Here's hoping the gentleman will do ok! But let's face it... there are smart places to build a home, and there are some very "not so smart" places! All it takes is a quick look at a Google Satellite Image map of that area, with a fairly steep and mostly "naked" hillside behind it to discover that that wasn't the smartest place to buy or build a home! Either way, a sad loss though! Time to ban snowboarding I guess! (exaggeration)

Bittersweet
Bittersweet

How many other homes in the area were damaged by avalanches in the last 50 years?

Alan H Johnson
Alan H Johnson

None. In fact an avalanche was unheard of there. This tragedy at least serves to warn people that avalanches don't just happen in the woods. Too many rush to judgment here. All that is clear is that it was a terrible accident. There have been houses below this slope since the 19th century. The hill was closed to recreationists because of disturbance of critical winter habitat. No one had contemplated an avalanche here. That mistake won't be made again.

Roger
Roger

Real classy, Tom - NOT!

PappaRozzi
PappaRozzi

I hope "What's Next" feels like the tud they sounded like when making the comment about these people being "rich home owners" asking for handouts (ref. article: Neighbors Seek Donations...) It's probably asking too much for that person to feel much of anything based on their comment - certainly not compassion. My heart goes out to all those involved in this tragedy - may you find peace and comfort during this difficult time.

Luce
Luce

Wow . . . "rich home owners." How does that person know their financial situation? The cost of all of this is astronomical. The house, possessions, hospital bills--which aren't covered 100% even with insurance--and now a funeral. And no check from an insurance company will ever come close to giving this man his life back . . . a life he lost through no fault of his own.

People shouldn't judge what they don't know.

doc
doc

Sadness, indeed. My condolences to the family. However....I would like to see followup regarding the snowboarders who were above. This may not have happened in the manner it did.

bg1010
bg1010

So sorry to hear

aliceo8
aliceo8

Heartbreaking. Condolences to the family.

Rattlesnake valley family
Rattlesnake valley family

We are so, so sorry to hear this news. This is a tragedy for all involved, and prayers are being sent to everyone.

BJackson
BJackson

I am really sorry to hear this, after the joy of them being rescued, it is difficult to think that one was lost, my condolences to the husband, family and friends.

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