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Skier rescues friend following avalanche near Brighton

Posted - Jan. 22, 2010 at 9:38 p.m.



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SALT LAKE COUNTY -- An avalanche broke free in the backcountry near Brighton Ski Resort Friday afternoon. Two men were caught in the snow; one of them was completely buried.

The slide broke loose just after 2 p.m. Rescue crews are calling this a miraculous ending to a story that could have had a very bad one.

John Sullivan, 22, was skiing with his friend, 24-year-old Ray Peacock when it happened. Sullivan said he didn't hear anything but saw a blast of white powder.

John Sullivan says his avalanche training really kicked into high gear when he saw his friend get swept away
John Sullivan says his avalanche training really kicked into high gear when he saw his friend get swept away

"I saw the snow come down and he was gone," Sullivan said.

Sullivan said his avalanche training really kicked into high gear, and he pulled out his beacon immediately to start looking for his friend.

"I went down from where he was at. I went straight down and turned on my beacon," Sullivan said.

After several minutes passed with no sign of Peacock, Sullivan called 911 for help.

"I'm just outside of Brighton," Sullivan told the dispatcher. "My friend is buried in an avalanche and I can't find him."

But soon after he made that call, he found Peacock.

"Based on where he was at, I didn't think he was alive," Sullivan said.

But after digging through about 2 feet of snow, Sullivan said he found Peacock lying face down.

Skier rescues friend following avalanche near Brighton

"His lips were blue," Sullivan said. "And as soon as I got his face uncovered, he was breathing and he made a sound, which was good."

While he worked on getting Peacock out, he was still on the phone with 911 dispatchers.

"You guys have him out of the snow?" the dispatcher asked.

"Yeah. He's alert and talking to me, and he's moving around," Sullivan replied.

Sullivan's quick thinking and preparedness saved his friend's life.

"He said he thought he was dying. He said he thought he was dead," Sullivan recalled. "He couldn't believe he was looking at me."

Sullivan and Peacock made their way to the road where Peacock was checked out by paramedics and transported to a local hospital.

Unified police Lt. Don Hutson said of Sullivan, "He had the proper equipment: a full backpack that had shovels, probes; he had beacons, and so he was able to go immediately to the area where his friend was."

The men said the area where the avalanche occurred was one they thought was safe.

"I just had a weird feeling about going out today with all the warnings," Sullivan said. "Although it seemed mellow and safe, it was the wrong choice, definitely a mistake."

The Unified Police Department say this incident provides a very good lesson for all of us: If you're going to head into the backcountry, make sure that you're prepared, you have the proper equipment and that you know how to use that equipment.

This was a big slide -- about 1,000 feet long and 300 feet wide. Officers said there's no way Peacock would have made it out alive if his friend wasn't prepared and knew how to pull him out.

Peacock was taken to a local hospital to be checked out. He was released with only some minor bumps and bruises.

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Story compiled with contributions from Jennifer Stagg and Marc Giauque.

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