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Man recounts experience of being buried by avalanche

By Devon Dolan | Posted - Jan 15th, 2014 @ 10:27pm

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OGDEN — Matt Morgan sat in a wheelchair at McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden with two broken femurs and a broken arm and recounted his experience of surviving being buried by an avalanche.

The 28-year-old said that "not surviving" wasn't an option.

"Ultimately I had complete trust in my friends that they would rescue me and save me," Morgan said.

Morgan and three of his friends were snowmobiling in the Bear Lake area on Saturday. Matt knows the terrain well. He said it's a place where he's snowmobiled for the last 10 years.

The group decided to head down into St. Charles Canyon with Morgan leading the way. He was two-thirds of the way down when snow on top of the slope became loose triggering a slide that the Utah Avalanche Center estimated was 500 feet wide and 800 feet long.

"It caught me from behind. I did not see it. I did not hear it," Morgan said.

Buried beneath two feet of snow and unconscious, Matt's friends knew they had mere minutes to dig him out. Two friends went down the mountain to help him and one hiked to the top of the mountain to get cellphone service and called 911.

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"We dropped that phone call 21 times. It was intense. I think every time I contacted her, I think I got two words out," said Morgan's friend, Justin Hildreth.

After digging for 10 unnerving minutes, Morgan was freed and began breathing on his own. It took another 6 and a half hours to transport Morgan down the mountain because of harsh weather conditions.

" 'I love you guys.' I said, 'I love you guys,' " Morgan told him friends.

An avalanche warning had been in effect for the Bear Lake area. Morgan said he was unaware and would have avoided the danger zone if he knew.

Bruce Tremper, an avalanche forecaster, said it's still OK to venture out during a high warning, but that snowmobilers should exercise caution.

"The one thing you have to worry about when there is high danger or warning is you cannot go onto steep terrain like slopes that are more than 30 degrees or locally connected terrain," Tremper said.

Morgan will have surgery on his arm Friday. He had surgery on both of his legs Sunday. He will then go through two weeks of hospital physical therapy.


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