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Buried alive, he survives

March 04, 2007|From Associated Press

HELENA, MONT. — A snowmobiler buried by an avalanche for about eight hours emerged with apparently little more than scratches after a relative found him with a probe.

Ryan Roberts, 34, of Kalispell said Friday that he was astonished he survived the avalanche, which swept over him late Thursday afternoon during a snowmobile trip in Montana's Flathead National Forest. He was found shortly before midnight.

"I guess I was just allowed to live another day," Roberts said in a telephone interview after his release from the hospital.

Roberts was snowmobiling with his uncle and a friend, neither of whom were caught in the avalanche. Roberts said he tried to outrun the snow by going about 80 mph, but leaped off the machine as it sped toward trees.

He said he tumbled downhill and was buried face-up by about 4 feet of snow. When he could not move, Roberts said, he tried to remain calm and accept his fate. He recalled thinking, "Well, I'm going to die."

Roberts said he often carries a transceiver while snowmobiling but did not have it Thursday. The device emits a signal that can help find a person.

Dan Root, a cousin of Roberts, arrived about 11 p.m. Others had been searching for hours.

"I parked my sled, got my probe out and walked up the hill about 5 or 6 feet and hit" Roberts with the probe, Root said. "I probed him the first time."

Dr. Mark Rabold, who has cared for avalanche victims, said Roberts was lucky. "God was smiling on that boy."

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