Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2002-01-24
Submitted By: WWAN via Deseret News
Place: Salt River Range, Bridger-Teton National Forest
State: WY
Country: USA
Summary: 2 snowmobilers caught, buried, and rescued

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'Whole life' flashed before eyes of Utah man in

avalanche

By Stephen Speckman

Deseret News staff writer

He tried to move but couldn't.

Brandon Bickmore, 30, told himself to remain calm ? but that lasted about five

seconds. Panic set in.

"I'm too young to die," was one of the South Jordan resident's

first thoughts as he lay trapped after an avalanche last week in

Wyoming. He and others were riding snowmobiles in

mountainous terrain.

Did anyone know where he was? Who else was caught in the

slide? Would someone find him?

The snowpack put pressure on his lungs. Breathing was

difficult ? short gasps.

His "whole life" ? family, his business, the woman he plans to

marry in July, plans to have children someday ? it all flashed

before his eyes.

What he didn't know was that a small spot on his yellow

helmet showed in the snow. And the tips of a few fingers on one

hand were visible. He wouldn't have to rely on an avalanche

beacon to help save his life.

Bickmore was the first of a pair of snowmobilers to be pulled

from an icy embrace. Rescuers would have to probe the packed

snowy depths for 25-year-old Rob Price of Bountiful.

The clock was ticking.

Bickmore and nine others were snowmobiling in the

backcountry Jan. 24, about 16 miles outside of Afton, Wyo.

They set out at about 9:30 a.m. All but one had avalanche

beacons. At least five had shovels.

It was an overcast day with light snow. About 2 feet of fresh powder were waiting.

The avalanche danger in the area was high.

The group had just finished lunch at a stop deep into the Salt River Range of the

Bridger-Teton National Forest, just east of the Idaho border about halfway up the

Wyoming state line. They headed up a ravine not much wider than five feet at the

bottom.

It's common for experienced snowmobilers to zigzag up and out of a ravine, going up

one side, down and up the other.

"That's the fun of it," Bickmore said.

Fun quickly turned into acts of desperation.

The avalanche struck before most could react. One man jumped off his sled and ran

behind a nearby tree. His snowmobile was hit ? but he was safe.

Others watched as Bickmore was yanked from his sled "like a rag doll." Price was

buried by two separate slides, each about three feet thick and about 120 feet wide.

Bickmore was uncovered right away. Others witnessed the slide and saw

approximately where its victims lay, and probes and avalanche beacons helped pinpoint

Price's location more precisely. Even then it took several minutes to find him.

Price was buried 8 to 10 feet down. It took five people digging with shovels nearly

eight minutes, Bickmore estimates, just to reach Price's helmet. His lips were purple, his

breathing shallow. At least 15 minutes passed before rescuers could pull him free.

When the hard-packed snow was removed from around his chest, Price took a big

gasp of air and coughed, but he was not yet conscious.

He remembers waking up next to a fire. He was taken to a hospital in Afton where

his body temperature was 96 degrees ? normal is 98.6.

Price survived. His head and stomach still hurt, and he's still waiting to hear the

results of tests to determine whether he sustained any lasting injuries.

While he was buried, "it felt like someone had just drove on top of me and parked

their car," he said.

Without the beacon, Price doesn't know whether rescuers would have found him in

time.

"$300 saved my life," Price said of his avalanche beacon. "I will not ride with anyone

without a beacon."

Bickmore, a self-described daredevil and adrenaline junkie, is scared.

"Scared to death, if you want to know the truth," he says. "I think I'll just be more apt

to stay off the hills and enjoy myself."

E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com