Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2003-02-15
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: 4.5 miles east of Mile 219.5 of the Parks Highway
State: AK
Country: USA
Summary: 1 snowmobiler caught and critically injured

From the Anchorage Daily News:

Friends kept hope, pal alive after avalanche

TRAINED: Safety classes and two EMTs made the difference for victim of Parks Highway slide.

The Associated Press

(Published: February 18, 2003)

Fairbanks -- While waiting for a rescue helicopter to arrive, Lucas VanBebber's friends worked to keep him warm and stable.

Their friend was bruised and battered, his snowmachine totaled, after being caught in an avalanche. After a two-hour vigil, a helicopter touched down to take VanBebber to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

VanBebber, 28, was listed in critical condition at the hospital Monday night.

He left his home at Slime Creek with five friends about 10:45 a.m. Saturday. The group planned to do some skiing, said Ben Johnson, 29, a member of the snowmachining party.

The snowmachiners split up into two groups. Johnson was a little behind VanBebber and Luke Lohnuller when he saw the avalanche hit.

"I would say that the tip of it broke off at 2 1/2, three feet deep. And it was probably 40 feet wide at the top, and then it fanned out bigger. It probably ran 1,500 vertical feet until it stopped," Johnson said.

Alaska State Troopers placed the location of the avalanche about 4.5 miles east of Mile 219.5 of the Parks Highway.

Johnson and another member of the group, Mike Speaks, are emergency medical technicians. They helped stabilize VanBebber after the avalanche while Lohnuller took his snowmachine and rode seven miles before reaching a truck and then driving another eight miles to call police.

Lohnuller called 911. The helicopter began transporting VanBebber to the hospital at 3:45 p.m., said Healy trooper Patrick Nelson.

Other members of the snowmachine party included Carlo Creek dog musher Eric O'Berg, 25, and Becky Warren, 28, Johnson's partner in running Denali Mountain Morning Hostel.

"We always try to be prepared for this kind of thing. We've all taken classes at one time or another," Johnson said.

Three members of the group carried avalanche beacons. Each had extra clothing that was used to keep VanBebber warm.