February 28, 2002 -- Salt Lake City. Black Diamond Equipment recently
learned that a man wearing its AvaLung II avalanche breathing device
survived a serious avalanche while skiing in Canada. Reports indicate that
four members of a ten person guided helicopter - skiing group originating
in Revelstoke, BC were caught and buried in the slide. One member was only
partially buried. The other three were fully buried and located grouped
together in a natural terrain trap. Members of the group uncovered the lone
survivor, an American man, after an estimated 35-45 minutes under
approximately six feet of debris. The man was found unconscious, in a
supine position, breathing through the AvaLung mouthpiece. He regained
consciousness upon being uncovered. The other two buried adjacent to him
were both found dead , one of them being a UIAA Swiss guide with the group.
Neither of the deceased wore an AvaLung.
The original AvaLung was introduced by Black Diamond in 1999 after
extensive controlled burials and testing in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah.
Breakthrough data learned during these tests was published in the Journal
of American Medical Association, May 3, 2001. The AvaLung is a
revolutionary breathing device that enables a buried avalanche victim to
draw air from the snow surrounding them allowing the user to breathe while
awaiting rescue. Redesigned in 2001, the new streamlined AvaLung II
continues to gain acceptance among avalanche professionals, ski patrol,
backcountry skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers.
Black Diamond has received confirmed reports in recent years of avalanche
victims in Europe and North America surviving with the aid of the AvaLung.
Designed to be used in conjunction with an avalanche transceiver, shovel,
probe, and reliable partners, the AvaLung is not intended to supplant the
need for proper avalanche education or protocol but rather should be used
in conjunction with it. The accompanying documents include a news story
about the accident and the transcript of an interview of the survivor by
independent Avalanche Forecast Professional and Colorado Avalanche
Information Center Director Dale Atkins. Last year a record number of 45
deaths were the result of avalanches in North America. This winter
2001-2002, a total of 28 deaths have been recorded due to avalanches in the
USA and Canada.
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd. is an employee owned manufacturer of equipment
for rock climbing, alpinism and backcountry skiing. Black Diamond's family
of brands including Ascension, Beal Ropes, Bibler Tents, Franklin Climbing
Equipment and Scarpa Mountain Boots encompass product offerings which run
the gamut from indoor climbing to year round outdoor pursuits.
Additional information on the AvaLung II can be found on www.Avalung.com or www.BlackDiamondEquipment.com
Black Diamond AvaLung Survivor Interview
Interview with the victim/survivor of the avalanche conducted by AvaLung
Product Group Manager Jordy Margid of Black Diamond Equipment.
* Time of burial - 35 - 45 minutes according to the helicopter pilot.
* Burial Depth - 6 feet at hip.
* Position - semi supine, head up.
* Avalung model - A2 (gift from his girlfriend).
* Age: 44.
* Height 6¹2".
* Weight: 195.
* Physical conditioning - excellent
Victim had just skied a pitch and stopped at the bottom with others in the
guided group. He looked up and saw the slide coming at him and put the
AvaLung in his mouth (he had practiced with the AvaLung on a regular basis
prior to the trip). He was hit by a "large slide" and was buried instantly
? he struggled to stay on the surface but could not. He tried to keep his
hands over his face and mouth, but as the slide set up, his hands were torn
away. When the slide set, he had little, if any, pressure on his chest, but
he was completely unable to move. Snow was packed in his ears and nose, but
his mouth stayed clear due to the mouthpiece. He said it was not at all
difficult to keep the mouthpiece in his mouth.
He first thought, "I'm breathing and I'll be fine. I'm just going to relax
and wait to get dug out." As time went on, he started thinking that his
entire group could have been buried and that there would be no one on the
surface to dig him out. As more time went on, he started thinking he was
going to die and tried to figure out how he was going to die. He went
unconscious for the last part of his burial (he thinks about 5 minutes but
does not know for sure). As soon as he was dug out, he came to. Dr. Colin
Grissom MD, who conducted all the test burials during the development of
the AvaLung believes this is due to hypercapnia - breathing too fast due
to panic. The victim said that he and others in the rescue party attribute
his survival to the AvaLung.
Black Diamond AvaLung - Helicopter Ski Operation De-Brief
Interview of Senior Guide of Helicopter Ski Operation conducted by Dr.
Thomas Crowley of the University of Colorado, inventor of the AvaLung.
I spoke with the, Senior Guide at the Helicopter Ski operation. I explained
who I am, and that we had heard rumors that they had experienced an
accident that involved an AvaLung. I said that we have done extensive
testing in controlled burials, but that we need all the information we can
get on the AvaLung's performance in actual field accidents. I promised him
full confidentiality, to whatever extent he wishes.
He responded that he saw no reason to withhold information. Early last week
they had an accident. Four were buried, one only partially. Three "went for
a ride". Those three were carried to a terrain trap, and all were deposited
within a few meters of each other. The heads of all three were about 1.5 to
2 meters deep, and they were beside each other. All three were dug free at
about the same time after burial. Two victims were not wearing AvaLungs,
and they could not be resuscitated. At least one was a guide. The third
victim (a guest) was wearing an AvaLung II. He was "taking baby breaths"
and "unconscious" but "not blue" and he "woke right up" after extraction.
The Senior Guide was present during a later debriefing of the survivor. The
victim had heard a warning, crouched down, fumbled a little with the tubing
but crammed the mouthpiece into his mouth and "went for a ride". He clamped
down on the mouthpiece with his teeth, but could not hold onto it with his
hands. He could not clear an airspace in front of his face because his
hands had been forced out to his sides, However, he said that he had no
problem keeping the mouthpiece in his mouth. After stopping he relaxed
immediately; "like we teach them", said the Senior Guide. The guest had no
significant trauma and wanted to ski again a couple of days later.
The Senior Guide did not know whether the fatalities had any physical
trauma; their autopsies will reveal that. I told him that I got a real
shiver from this, and he said that we had developed something that no one
would have even guessed about a few years ago. I said that it really
sounded as though this case demonstrated the AvaLungs effectiveness, and he
answered, "It's an overwhelming case".
Posted by Ari Cheren, MountainZone.com Staff