U.S. snowboarder Brock Crouch survives being buried by avalanche near Whistler

Eighteen-year-old Brock Crouch was under the snow for five minutes

An American professional snowboarder has survived being buried alive by an avalanche in the backcountry near Whistler, B.C.

Eighteen-year-old Brock Crouch was under the snow for five minutes before his friends uncovered him — blue-faced but conscious — in a harrowing rescue.

“It’s actually quite a bit of a miracle,” said Shin Campos, who was on the mountain with Crouch.

It was a beautiful day on April 22, a few days after a storm, said Campos. Between 10 to 30 centimetres of snow had fallen in the last few days, but it was sunny and temperatures had been warming up.

It was also Crouch’s second run down the same slope on the Pemberton Icecap that day for a film shoot by Nevada-based Absinthe Films. Campos was acting as mountain safety location co-ordinator for the shoot.

But Crouch and another snowboarder, Cam Fitzpatrick, strayed a little off course and approached a cornice — an overhanging mass of hardened snow.

That’s when Campos, who was only about 45 metres away, heard the crack of the cornice breaking away and a long rumble as it tumbled down the mountain.

“It was a big — not explosion — but a big rushing. A big rumble,” Campos said.

What followed was a flurry of action, with radio check-ins that came back from everyone except Crouch.

Blackcomb Helicopter pilot Josh Poole, who was stationed on an opposing ridge, lifted off to survey the scene. He pointed to debris and directed Campos and the others through a safe route to reach Crouch. He then landed, grabbed a shovel and jumped out of his helicopter while the blades were still spinning to start digging where the edge of Crouch’s board was sticking out, Campos said.

Campos, who is a former pro athlete, said he was aware of the danger — and the importance of time. He had tried to rescue another friend a few years ago in the B.C. Interior, under similar conditions, but was unsuccessful in resuscitating him after 45 minutes of CPR.

“It doesn’t happen often. Most people think (two rescues) is a lot. But I’ve been in this game for 27 or 28 years,” he said.

When the group reached Crouch’s location, they first uncovered his boot, Campos said, then determined his body was folded in half, with his head near his crotch.

“We uncovered his head, got his airway clear — he’s like, blue,” Campos said. “But as soon as we get his airway clear he starts moaning and then we’re like, OK he’s alive,” Campos said.

They carefully and quickly excavated him out, cutting his backpack off and stabilizing his neck and back in case of injury.

Crouch was flown to hospital. He didn’t need surgery and had no head trauma or compound fractures, Campos said.

“He has three broken vertebrae — two burst vertebrae and one fractured — a lacerated pancreas and a bunch of busted teeth. His whole front grill is pretty messed up,” Campos said. “But he’s alive.”

Beyond the slight straying off course, Campos said he doesn’t believe there’s much they could have done to prevent the accident. But he cautioned against going into the backcountry without an experienced person.

He said everyone is “elated” that Crouch is OK — including Crouch himself.

“I don’t know if, at the beginning, he knew how lucky he was. But now I think it’s sunk in. He’s also a very confident and skilled kid. I know he’ll be back,” he said.

Campos said Crouch was released from Vancouver General Hospital on Friday, and has made his way home to California to start his recovery.

Photos from Vancouver General Hospital are posted on Crouch’s verified Instagram account.

“I was standing at the top of a ridge with Cam when the cornice broke under me and pulled me backwards into a slide. It took me through about 1000 feet and over several rock bands before I ended up at the bottom, buried with no oxygen for almost 5 minutes,” one post reads.

“Luckily for me, I was with some of the most experienced people in the world when it comes to backcountry safety and without them I wouldn’t be here today … I can’t wait to get back on my board and shred with everyone again!”

Crouch has competed in three X Games and was also part of the 2017 U.S. surfing team that won gold at the I.S.A. World Junior Surfing Championships in Japan.

His talent agency said Crouch is not ready to speak with media and is focused on recovering.

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Local business owner Mitch Vik one of 12 City Council candidates

Vik owns K-Max and volunteers with Lions Club, QDA and Community Futures

Quesnel excels in Prince George mud bog

Justin Price and Kevin Shaw got second and third place finishes at the two-day event

Elizebeth Montgomery running for Area B CRD director

The Bouchie Lake resident has served on the CRD’s Advisory Planning Commission since 2008

Quesnel Barrel Racing’s Sun Run a cloudy affair

Wet and cold conditions didn’t stop racers from putting on a show

Alex Fraser Park, Barkerville Heritage Trust receive provincial Rural Dividend grants

AFP, Barkerville awarded $500,000 each for facility upgrades and housing initiatives respectively

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

B.C. woman facing animal cruelty charges after emaciated dog seized

Kira, a Rottweiler, had kidney and bladder infections

Kim agrees to dismantle main nuke site if US takes steps too

Kim promised to accept international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and to visit Seoul soon.

Dozens speak at Vancouver hearing that could see duplexes replace single homes

The city clerk says 73 people signed up to speak at the hearing that began early Tuesday evening and adjourned hours later with 34 speakers still waiting.

North Carolina gov pleads with storm evacuees to be patient

The death toll rose to at least 37 in three states Tuesday, with 27 fatalities in North Carolina.

North and South Korea say they plan to bid for 2032 Olympics

Moon and Kim announced a sweeping set of agreements including a vow to work together to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.

Russia’s reinstatement after doping scandal goes to a vote

The World Anti-Doping Agency is due to vote Thursday Sept. 20, 2018, on possible reinstatement of Russia.

Ontario wins stay on ruling that struck down council-cutting plan

The province had argued the stay was necessary to eliminate uncertainty surrounding the Oct. 22 vote, and the Court of Appeal agreed.

B.C. cannabis producer Tilray hits at $20-billion high as stock price explodes

This is the first export of a cannabis product from a Canadian company to the U.S.

Most Read