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

Port Alberni RCMP honour fallen officers from New Brunswick

Moment of silence, prayers held for Fredericton officers killed last week

Trio of Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock events planned for Port Alberni

Cancer Society volunteers work behind the scenes to fundraise for tour

Man rescued from cliff on Harbour Road in Port Alberni

Fire department uses new equipment in rope rescue

Alberni Valley firefighters head to Fort St. James to assist with B.C. wildfires

‘We need to make sure first and foremost our community is protected’: Gilday

PHOTOS: B.C. city wakes up to darkness under wildfire smoke

The rest of the province also dealing with thick haze as smoky skies continue

Authorities mull evacuation order for Zeballos

Smoke billowed from the steep hillsides of Zeballos on Friday evening, as… Continue reading

Safeway union urges prejection of mediator recommendations

Says mediator asks for too many concessions

Fire chases B.C. crews out of their own camp

Crews in Burns Lake had to leave after a wildfire reportedly overtook their sleeping quarters

To address peacock problem, B.C. city moves ahead on trapping plan

Surrey’s new bylaw focuses on ensuring people no longer feed the birds, ahead of relocation

Hospitals to see ‘delays’ in care after losing Saudi students, health group says

About 1,000 Saudi residents called back to kingdom after suspending diplomatic relations with Canada

Bernier diatribe against ‘extreme multiculturalism’ boosts Liberal coffers

Party spokesperson Braeden Caley says online donations doubled, social media engagement quadrupled

‘Disjointed’ system hinders British Columbia First Nations in wildfire fight

More than 550 wildfires were burning in B.C. and crews were bracing for wind and dry lightning

Castlegar bridge designed by architect of collapsed Italian bridge

Riccardo Morandi designed the Kinnaird Bridge, which is part of Highway 3.

Most Read