Rescuers use bare hands to dig out man buried in California avalanche

Posted at 9:15 AM, Mar 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-03 09:15:31-05

 (CNN) -- Rescuers used bare hands and shovels to dig out a man buried in snow after an avalanche at a ski resort in California.

The avalanche hit five people Friday at a resort in Olympic Valley, leaving one hospitalized with a serious lower body injury, the Placer County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

One other person was treated and released, while the other three were unharmed, authorities said.

Heather Turning was spending her birthday snowboarding when the avalanche hit. She was one of several people who helped in the rescue.


"It looked like a blazing cloud of snow coming down," she said. "It went pretty fast."

As the avalanche settled, she heard a woman yelling, " 'my husband, my husband! '" she said.

They saw a tip of a snowboard in the snow and raced toward it, she said. Everyone started digging furiously, gingerly removing snow from the man's face.

Turning's video shows a handful of rescuers using shovels and bare hands to pull out the man as his head peeks out of the snow.

When a blizzard hit earlier, she said, everyone was excited to hit the slopes. The weather was overcast and snowing -- perfect for a day on the slopes.

"Crowds were literally woohoo-ing constantly, you're high-fiving every stranger you see," Turning said.

But that blizzard later escalated into an avalanche.

After the avalanche, authorities launched a search effort that included ski patrols, police, emergency responders and multiple avalanche rescue dogs, the sheriff's office said. They cleared the scene after everyone was accounted for.

It's unclear what triggered the avalanche, but authorities are investigating.

The Squaw Valley ski resort was closed for the day Friday following the incident.

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