PROVIDENCE – Weston Casey is lucky to be alive after being buried in an avalanche in Providence Canyon Monday afternoon. Casey, 19, was snowmobiling with his father Shawn and 16-year-old brother when the 1/2 mile slide occurred at Logan Peak.
According to the <a href=”http://utahavalanchecenter.org/avalanches/19745″ target=”_blank”>Utah Avalanche Center</a>, Shawn and Weston’s brother were beginning to descend into what is commonly referred to as the Rodeo Grounds at approximately 1 p.m. and the two triggered the avalanche. Both were able to outrun its 800 foot descent on their sleds.
When they reached the bottom they were unable to locate Weston. He did not have a beacon. After searching for five to 10 minutes Shawn located a mostly-burried sled. Approximately 20′ away he noticed four fingers of a red glove sticking out of the snow. He felt fingers in the glove and began to dig furiously.
Shawn did not have a shovel with him so he dug with his bare hands until his fingers began to bleed. Shawn and his son dug for about five minutes and finally cleared snow from Weston’s face. Weston was blue and likely not breathing.
Shawn managed to get Weston’s goggles and nose protector off and “blow into his mouth.” After a few breaths, Weston responded and began breathing again. By his father’s estimates, Weston was buried for approximately 15-20 minutes. His full face type helmet likely gave him a small air pocket. Shawn and his son continued to dig Weston out for another 30 minutes.
Weston did not have any major injuries so Shawn loaded him on his sled, returned to the trailhead, and drove straight to the hospital. Weston was treated for hypothermia and a strained neck and released that evening.
As it turns out, Weston had gotten stuck in deep snow and was digging his sled out when the avalanche occurred. When he realized he was going to get swallowed he tried to run for the trees to his left. He was buried about 10 feet from the edge of the avalanche.
The Utah Avalanche Center listed a few things that likely contributed to saving Weston’s life:
1. He was very close to the end of the avalanche so it was not as deep as higher up and was also slowing down as it approached him.
2. He chose to dive to the inside of a curve. The deposition directly across from him was much deeper.
3. He forgot his gloves at the gas station so his dad gave him his pair of brand new red gloves. The red really stood out against the snow.
Shawn Casey and his sons are aware of how lucky they were and that having had a beacon would have made a huge difference in the amount of time Weston was buried. They shared their experience hoping that it would prevent another accident like theirs from occurring again.
The Utah Avalanche Center says that very dangerous avalanche conditions exist throughout the area. There is a HIGH, or Level 4, danger and large and destructive avalanches are likely on drifted slopes in the backcountry. Triggered wind slab and very dangerous deep slab avalanches remain likely on steep drifted slopes. Avoid travel in avalanche terrain, and continue to stay off of and out from under steep slopes and obvious or historic avalanche paths.