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Rock slide kills five hikers in Colorado mountains

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Five hikers died on Monday when they were buried by rubble from a rock slide in the Colorado Rockies southwest of Denver but a 13-year-old girl was rescued, an official said.

Mountain rescuers had been dispatched in an attempt to save the five hikers before they were confirmed dead, said Chaffee County spokesman Dave Cotten.

The Chaffee County sheriff's department was alerted late Monday morning by an emergency 911 call from a woman reporting she had been struck in the head by a falling rock and that several people were trapped in the avalanche, county spokeswoman Monica Broaddus told Reuters.

Another victim, described as a 13-year-old girl, was plucked from the rubble by a sheriff's deputy who was one of the first to arrive on the scene, Broaddus said. The girl was flown by helicopter to a Denver-area hospital about 130 miles away, the spokeswoman said.

No further details on the condition of the girl were immediately available.

Earlier on Monday, authorities said up to seven people may have been caught in the rock slide. But Cotton later said there were six people trapped by the rubble, including the girl airlifted from the site, and they have all been located.

The bodies of the five hikers could not be recovered on Monday due to unstable conditions. Efforts to pull them out will begin "as soon as the area can be declared safe" for searchers, Chaffee County Sheriff Pete Palmer said in a statement.

The avalanche follows record rainfall and flooding in Colorado in September that was blamed for eight deaths and the disappearance of one person presumed dead. Rain may have caused unstable conditions and contributed to the slide, but that has not been fully determined, Chaffee County officials said in a statement.

The avalanche occurred in a rugged backcountry area popular with hikers in the Pike and San Isabel National Forest and near the 14,000-foot (4,267-meter) tall Mount Princeton, one of the so-called Collegiate Peaks in Sawatch Range of the Rockies.

The trail the hikers were taking leads to a scenic waterfall, authorities said.

(Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Eric Walsh)

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