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

Column: themes from the 2017 B.C. Flood and Wildfire Report

Columnist Jim Hilton offers an overview of the new fire and flood report’s 14 Strategic Shifts

Big victory for Quesnel’s U16 girls softball team in Kamloops

Unstoppable bats and a gem from Musselman propelled the girls to the win

Local athletes impress on Day 1 of Zone track and field event

CSS, QJS students showed off impressive skill as Quesnel hosts North Central Zone Championships

Tsilhqot’in community names officially recognized by Province

Tsilhqot’in names will now appear on provincial government resources, maps and databases

Editorial: respect where it’s due

Quesnel’s youth are impressive in their maturity and eloquence

VIDEO: Canadian Forces help flood-ravaged Grand Forks residents heal

Sgt. Bradley Lowes says the military is used to dealing with traumatic times

UPDATED: Almost 1,200 people allowed to return home in Kootenay-Boundary as floods dry up

Officials hope to have all 3,000 people back in their homes by Monday night

B.C. Lions bring back 6-time all-star offensive lineman Jovan Olafioye

He was acquired by the Montreal Alouettes last year.

Whitecaps rally for 2-2 draw with FC Dallas

Vancouver climbed out of a two-nil hole to tie FC Dallas 2-2

B.C. VIEWS: Making sense of climate policy

Flood and fire predictions have poor track record so far

Chilliwack Chiefs moving on to RBC Cup final after thrilling win over Ottawa

Kaden Pickering scored the winning goal in the 3rd period as Chilliwack won their semi-final 3-2.

VIDEO: As floodwaters recede, crews assess the damage to Grand Forks’ downtown

More than four dozen firefighters and building inspectors came out to help

Wellington Dukes pull off epic upset of Wenatchee at RBC Cup

The Dukes are off to the championship game after downing the Wild 2-1 Saturday at Prospera Centre.

Canada to face U.S. for bronze at world hockey championship

Canada was looking to play in the gold medal game for a fourth straight year, but saw 3-2 loss

Most Read