NATION

John Swanson tells of avalanche rescue

Comment
Decrease Increase Text size

A snowmobiler's helmet camera captured the avalanche rolling down the mountain at Snoqualmie Pass in Washington State.

Snowmobiling. (Photo: Flickr/roger.williams)

In the video, a person tries to signal to John Swanson, who had fallen off his snowmobile, but it was too late. Within seconds, Swanson was buried face down in heavy snow.

"You're face down and you're buried in the snow," Swanson said. "Physically in the snow [...] just cannot move and it's an uneasy feeling."

On the surface, it was a race against time. As the camera rolls, Swanson's two friends use their hands to try to free him. Just minutes before he suffocates, they're able to free his head.

"Get his helmet out," someone says in the video.

Then, it was a mission to uncover the rest of his body.

"We're fortunate we didn't have to go digging for him," said Warren Woerner, a rescuer. "He was where Russell started digging, he was right there."

Mountain rescue crews say Swanson is alive today because he had the most important tools with him--friends.

"The number one is a partner," said Ski Patrol Director Rob Gibson. "Have somebody look after you, somebody help you out."

Swanson suffered some frostbite, but is expected to be okay. The incident marked his second brush with death. Fifteen years ago, he spent weeks in a coma after he was engulfed in a car fire.

Ever year, avalanches kill 150 people worldwide.

 

Would you like to contribute to this story? Join the discussion.

Recommended For You
comments powered by Disqus