Evan Hannibal and Tyler Dewitt reached an out-of-court settlement to avoid paying $168,000 in restitution from damage that resulted after the pair triggered an avalanche above Colorado’s Eisenhower Tunnel. The slide destroyed an expensive avalanche mitigation system and covered a frontage road. The misdemeanor charges against the two backcountry users were also dropped, resulting in no jail time for the snowboarders.
The original trial for the two was scheduled for March 25 but was declared a mistrial because a number of jurors failed to attend the initial hearing. The settlement means that there will be no trial on the rescheduled date of June 7, 2021.
According to the Colorado Sun, Hannibal and Dewitt will instead serve an unspecified time of unsupervised probation and complete roughly 20 hours of community service.
The trial caused controversy when Colorado’s Fifth Judicial District Attorney based the criminal charges on a video that Hannibal and Dewitt submitted for informational purposes to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), and issued subpoenas requiring CAIC director Ethan Green and forecaster Jason Konisberg to testify as expert witnesses in the trial.
The implications of the plea deal remain unclear for future instances when avalanche incidents cause damage to public property. By settling out of court, there remains no precedent set in Colorado or beyond. As backcountry use increases substantially year over year, however, conditions are ripe for more possible unintended damage to occur in similar situaitons.