SQUAW VALLEY (CBS13) — Dramatic cellphone video shows the frantic effort to dig out people trapped in a Squaw Valley avalanche.
Skiers and snowboarders buried under heavy snow that came crashing down Squaw Valley’s slopes.
Joseph Breault was one of those rescuers on the mountain. He was there the moment the avalanche hit.
“I heard this sound — sounded like a train, coming through the woods, and I turned around and all of a sudden it just blew up,” Breault said. “Snow went 100 feet in the air; you couldn’t see anything.”
Breault says it first became eerily silent. Then came the screams for help.
IN HIS OWN WORDS: Skier Recounts Rescue Of Snowboarder In Squaw Valley Avalanche
“People yelling for their wives, their kids,” Breault said.
Breault immediately went to help one man covered by the avalanche, only the tail of his snowboard was exposed.
“We just started digging, furiously digging,” Breault said.
Finally, the man’s face emerged. His lips were blue. Then suddenly “He opened up his eyes, and he’s looking right at me—and he says ‘Where’s my wife,’” Breault said.
Incredibly the buried man was okay. His wife was too.
“His wife came up to him—distraught and obviously so happy,” Breault said.
That survival story followed the tragic discovery of a snowboarder dead on the Squaw Valley slopes only hours earlier.
Placer County Sheriff’s investigators say the body of 42-year-old Wenyu Zhang of Rocklin was found four to five feet beneath fresh snow. He had been reported missing the night before.
For one Squaw Valley snowboarder, this snowstorm proved deadly.
For others trapped by an avalanche, they now have a harrowing story of survival. And heroes like Joseph Breault, to thank.
“People were yelling for help, and we responded,” Breault said.