Item: An avalung-associated avalanche survival
Title: An avalung-associated avalanche survival
Proceedings: 2002 International Snow Science Workshop, Penticton, British Columbia
Authors: Thomas J.Crowley, Dale Atkins, Colin K.Grissom, Martin I.Radwin, Michael P.Morrissey, Case Histories, TJ Crowley Corporation, 11351 East Amherst Ct., Aurora, CO 80014, USA, Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Boulder, CO, USA, LDS Hospital
Abstract: Background: In controlled experiments the AvaLung, using air contained within snow, maintains buried persons' oxygenation adequately for 60 minutes or longer. Objective: To document an AvaLung-associated survival from a fatal avalanche that fully buried 3 helicopter skiers. Methods: Interviews with the company's senior guide, the survivor (a co-author),and a coroner's employee. Results: British Columbia, 10 Feb 02: a guided group partially skied a leeward treeless bowl. Then Guest B observed a skier-triggered avalanche starting about 100 m above him (hard slab, 1.5 m crown face, 90 m width, 450 m run). He inserted his AvaLung mouthpiece before being struck. Tumbling, his hands were forced away from his face, but his teeth tightly held the mouthpiece. After 200 m he stopped in a seated position, immobilized (except one hand), head buried 1.5-2 m. Snow tightly packed his nose and ears, but his oral airway remained clear. He breathed easily through the AvaLung without pressure on his chest. Initially confident, he worried as time passed without rescue. Choosing asphyxial over hypothermic death, he decided to spit out the mouthpiece if he became too cold. Transceiver searchers uncovered him after 20-40 minutes (estimates varied), unconscious but breathing, without the mouthpiece in his mouth. He awoke immediately upon exposure, recovering fully after treatment for mild hypothermia. Guest A (uncovered first) and a guide (uncovered last), buried nearby and at least 1.5 m deep, died of asphyxia. Discussion Points: successful mouthpiece deployment and retention; AvaLung breathing maintaining a snow-free oral airway; easy respiratory movements and AvaLung-supported breathing post-immobilization; possible reasons for final unconsciousness.
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Keywords: asphyxia, suffocation, ski, tree wells
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