In a dramatic event caught on video, a snowmobiler coming down a hill at Stampede Pass in the Cascades was buried by an avalanche but, luckily for him, friends were nearby and frantically dug him out in time to save his life.
The snowmobiler, John Swanson, said in an interview Tuesday he was enjoying a weekend with his friends at Stampede pass, which is just south of Snoqualmie Pass.
He said he was roaring down a hill on his snowmobile Sunday when the “hillside broke free ... I was running down the hill and I could hear Russ yelling ... he was saying, ‘Get out of the way!'”
But Swanson said he could not longer steer as "the whole hillside gave way.”
He was buried in seconds. It was caught on video by one of his friends who had a camera attached to his helmet.
“I actually thought the snowmobile was on top of me. It wasn`t."
"It’s like being in concrete,” he said of being buried under the snow. “I guess I always figured you could move somewhat, wiggle here, wiggle there and create yourself an air pocket but there was nothing. The snow filled totally in, filled my mask.”
Swanson was suffocating.
“Every time I tried to inhale, just inhaling ice balls,” he said.
His fellow snowmobilers frantically clawed and dug at the snow to save him. “Russ is yelling, ‘Where you at … and he stepped on my head, so he started digging there.”
And seconds later, he was freed from the snow.
“Once they got my arms free, I said, ‘Quit digging, just pull me out and get me out of here!’ ” he said with a laugh.
Swanson said he has watched the video several times and knows he’s a lucky guy.
“I’m sure everyone will be a lot more aware, have avalanche beacons and safety gear if nothing else. This was a good end. Hopefully, it saves somebody down the road that gets caught in a similar situation.”