NEWS

Snowmobiler rescued from avalanche

01/24/2012 10:08 EST | Updated 03/25/2012 05:12 EDT

A Washington snowmobiler is now telling his harrowing story after an avalanche buried him alive and says he survived only because he was rescued by friends.

John Swanson was caught in the slide Sunday in Stampede Pass on Mount Washington, about 30 kilometres south of Seattle.

The immediate aftermath was caught on a video camera mounted on a friend's helmet.

Swanson’s friend, Rick Jablinske, witnessed the avalanche and helped dig his buddy out.

"They were digging, then I was, ‘Like, this isn't good.’ So I was grabbing a shovel while the guys were all in there with hands," Jablinske said.

Swanson said he was conscious, but trapped.

"I knew I was buried enough in snow that I couldn't move. I was just suffocating in snow," said Swanson.

Swanson said he was extremely lucky that they knew where to find him.

"They knew where I went in the snow and that was the saving grace … knowing exactly where I went in the snow," he said.

The friends managed to get him air just in time.

"Once his head was out then I was a lot more relieved,” said Jablinske. “He was just saying, ‘Get me out, get me out.’"

Danger level high

Mild and rainy weather conditions in the backcountry on much of the West Coast have been causing concerns since last weekend.

The Canadian Avalanche Centre says B.C.'s coastal mountains and the North Shore are dangerous right now.

"Right now we are going through a pretty stormy period on the coast and as the storm is persisting our avalanche danger tends to elevate," said Shannon Werner of the Canadian Avalanche Centre.

The centre's website shows areas at high risk for avalanches in red, with a four out of five danger rating.

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