Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Patroller caught in avalanche headed for Idaho hospital

I went to the mountain early today to hit up the fresh snow. The lines were crazy and the upper mountain never opened due to an avalanche. A patroller was caught and may still be in critical condition... waiting for updates. You only live once- keep it safe.

The following article on today's incident was taken from the Jackson Hole Daily - HERE.

The ski patroller buried in an avalanche Wednesday morning at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was being transported to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho, a spokeswoman for St. John’s Medical Center said just after noon on the day of the accident.

Mark “Big Wally” Wolling, 58, was caught in the slide at 8:26 a.m. as patrollers were reducing the avalanche hazard at the resort, the resort reported at a noon press conference. The slope was not open to the public.

Wolling’s fellow patroller found him by using a radio transceiver. He was buried under six feet of snow, dug out within about 10 minutes with no detectable pulse.

Rescuers transported him to the Teton Village Clinic by sled in a ride that took six minutes. After eight minutes of work there, medical personnel detected Wolling’s pulse, resort officials said. He was transferred to St. John’s Medical Center via ambulance and was prepared for the flight to Idaho Falls.

“Our prayers are with Mark and his family,” resort President Jerry Blann said at the news conference. “Our staff exhibited extreme professionalism.”

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort received 10 inches of snow in the 24 hours leading up to Wednesday morning and substantial amounts in the previous week. The Bridger-Teton National Forest Backcountry Avalanche Hazard & Weather Forecast – – said the avalanche hazard was high above 7,500 feet in the Teton area.

The resort offered the following account of the accident:

Members of ski patrol were conducting routine avalanche hazard reduction on the Cheyenne Bowl Route at approximately 9,350 feet. Wolling threw and exploded a hand charge from Rendezvous Trail into Cheyenne Bowl with no result.

He and his partner ski cut the area below and stopped above a cliff. Wolling threw two more hand charges. These exploded simultaneously and caused the snow to fracture above where both stood.

Wolling’s partner, whom the resort did not name, was able to grab a tree. Wolling was swept over the cliff and down the slope into the bowl.

Ski patrollers conducted cardiopulmonary resuscitation and administered an automated external defibrillator while readying for transport to the village clinic. The AED is the mechanism that did not detect a pulse and hence did not administer a shock.

The slope had not been open to the public this season. It had been visited and bombed by ski patrol earlier this winter, however.

At the time of transport to St. John’s Medical Center, Wolling was exhibiting vital signs.

St. John’s Medical Center reported at 12:35 that Wolling would be transported via fixed-wing ambulance to Idaho Falls.

Wolling has been on the patrol since 1989.

“[Wolling] is an amazing person who has been on the JHMR team since 1978, he’s definitely part of our family.” Blann said in a prepared statement.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is operating all lifts except for the Aerial Tram, Sublette and Thunder quad which will be closed for the remainder of the day.

“Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has established standards and protocols for minimizing the risk of avalanche that are based on the current weather and snowpack conditions,” the resort said in its statement. “Jackson Hole Mountain Resort receives over 400 inches of snow annually and is dedicated to making the skiing and riding as safe as possible for our guests. Avalanche conditions change hour-by-hour and day-by-day. JHMR Ski Patrol continuously monitors elements of the weather and snowpack conditions 24 hours a day throughout the winter and uses this information to continually assess potential hazards.”

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