Erin has a lucky escape
That day on the mountain would forever be engrained in the friends’ memories.
Erin and Steve were living the dream as ski instructors in the Austrian alps for the season.
It had been snowing heavily for days, frustrating for all the skiers and holidaymakers who were waiting for the weather to change.
At last the day dawned with a clear blue sky and half a metre of fresh powdery snow, a skiers dream conditions.
Erin and her friends could hardly wait to be the first to make tracks in the pristine snow. Steve overtook her and she in turn overtook him as they raced down the mountain, they were laughing, enjoying the freedom, the stinging cold air on their faces.
Steve and Erin had know each other for years, had always been competitive. They went faster, the only sounds were the chattering of their skis as they flew across the powdery whiteness. Until their skis collided and Erin went flying into the air. Losing her skis in the collision, she tumbled. A whoosh of snow enveloped her, but at first that didn’t worry her thinking it was coming from her other friends behind her, until she realised she was being swept up by an avalanche of snow and she was falling, over and over.
Coming to an abrupt halt, she found she could no longer breathe, face down in an eerie silence. All she could hear was her racing heartbeat. She tried to draw in a breath into her burning lungs; It was like trying to breathe through a thick cloth.
Everything was white. She tried to scream, unable to make a sound owing to what little oxygen available to her.
Her phone rang, the ringtone she’d selected a few days ago mocked her with its cheerfulness. The weight of the snow trapped her arms, making it impossible to reach the phone. She was slowly suffocating.
Erin knew the facts about avalanche survival, they had been told in the briefing when she’d first arrived at the resort that after eleven minutes rescuers would continue to search, but for a corpse. She was only too aware her friends had no rescue gear, no probes, no shovels, just their bare hands. She hoped and prayed they knew the spot where she’d disappeared under the snow.
Minutes passed, she stopped fighting; she let go. The snow which had melted around her nose and mouth froze solid, blocking her airway. She imagined she was in a thick forest where no sound or air could penetrate.
Fifteen minutes later by some miracle Steve located the back of her leg as he thrust his hands into the deep snow frantically searching for her. He called to the other searchers to help him but when they eventually dug her out, there was no pulse.
The rescuers began CPR, eventually she responded, hyperthermia having slowed her metabolism reducing her brain’s need for oxygen.
At the hospital they tried to bring Erin back to life. Her blood was warmed and recirculated back into her body using a dialysis machine.
Many others were not so lucky that day.