11:00 AM EDT, March 14, 2012
It was extraordinary video of the rescue of a snowmobiler from Utah who was buried under 10 feet of snow and ice after accidently triggering an avalanche. Thankfully, his girlfriend and his buddies got him out just in time.
There's been a rash of dangerous avalanches in recent weeks—many caused by unusually warm weather that has caused snow to loosen and tumble down mountains. But now there is a simple device that could save your life.
It's an exploding airbag that you wear in a backpack.
"It feels light, you don't feel like there's anything on you," said INSIDE EDITION's Lisa Guerrero.
The airbag protects you from being crushed to death in an avalanche. But even with an airbag, avalanches can be deadly. How do you survive? INSIDE EDITION headed to Utah—one of the hotspots for avalanches—to find out.
INSIDE EDITION went up with the University of Utah's Diploma in Mountain Medicine training program to see how these extreme rescues are done.
The university team flew Guerrero on an aerial training exercise into the back country of the rugged Wasatch Mountains outside Salt Lake City.
When field nurse Casey Thompson got the urgent call from the dispatcher, she had just minutes to get airborne.
From the chopper they scanned the hillside for scattered debris—evidence of an avalanche.
Once they arrived at the avalanche site they detected the signal from the skier's rescue beacon.
The "victim" was actually a fellow rescuer acting as a victim. The rescuers used shovels and even their hands to frantically dig him out. The victim was placed on a litter. They lower him down an extremely steep mountain slope using ropes.
Treading sideways down the mountain, the rescuers had to proceed carefully because, as they saw firsthand, the falling snow could trigger another avalanche.
"Is it possible that as they are rescuing the victim that they could cause another avalanche to happen?" asked Guerrero.
"It is possible that they could cause another avalanche, but that's why they are going very slow and steady," said Scott McIntosh, the co-director of the Mountain Medicine Program.
The nurse and the paramedic checked the victim for vital signs.
"What is the most important thing at this point?" asked Guerrero.
"We can assume he hasn't been breathing effectively for quite some time. He was buried for quite some time, so we want to make sure we are giving him 100 percent oxygen," said Thompson.
With the blades spinning, they quickly loaded the victim into the chopper. The time from the first dispatch to the patient's flight to the hospital took only 20 minutes.
It was only a drill, but you can see how only minutes can mean the difference between life and death.