Rescuer: ‘Most Difficult Avalanche Scene I Have Ever Witnessed’

Feb 8, 2021, 6:21 PM | Updated: 10:24 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The chief flight paramedic with Intermountain Life Flight said Saturday’s avalanche was a scene of death and destruction he will never forget.

“Probably the most tragic and the most difficult avalanche scene I have ever witnessed,” said Rick Black with Life Flight. “With four victims who are buried, it turns into a mass casualty incident. So, we send out the cavalry — every resource along the Wasatch Front.”

The call came into Life Flight about noon on Saturday. Black and his team were called to help hoist rescuers onto the mountain to help the skiers and to also help hoist out victims.

Heavy winds and rough terrain made it difficult. Black said it was clear from the air that it was a dire and deadly situation.

“I could see a ski on top of the snow and as I looked closer I see two individuals that were in the party that were digging out their friends and did notice that one individual was doing CPR on the scene,” said Black.

Eight skiers were down below. Four of them would end up losing their lives. Black helped hoist out three of the four surviving victims.

“They were all traumatized,” said Black, a 20-year Life Flight veteran. He said this one really hit close to home physically and emotionally because he’s a backcountry skier himself and loves this terrain.

“This is my community I’m going in to help out. These are my people. These are the individuals I like to hang out with. It hits home. It’s close. It’s a difficult thing to do, but we put that aside, we go in and do our job,” he said.

The tragedy is a reminder of just how quickly life can change.

“It was a sunny day. You are with friends. You are having a great time and then just a couple of turns and your world turns upside down,” said Black. “And it turns into the worst possible day they will ever have.”

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Rescuer: ‘Most Difficult Avalanche Scene I Have Ever Witnessed’