12-year-old boy survives being buried for 40 minutes by avalanche in French Alps 'miracle'
Christmas may have come and gone a few days ago, but that doesn't mean the season is quite over yet. It also means that what happened to one 12-year-old boy can just about be counted as a Christmas miracle.
The young boy was visiting the La Plagne ski resort this week, in the town of Bourg-Saint-Maurice. On Wednesday, he and six of his relatives, including his parents, were skiing off-piste when he decided to go slightly ahead of the rest of the group.
It was at this moment that a large section of snow detached and began to flow down the mountain, leaving him as the sole victim of an avalanche.
The avalanche hit the boy at an altitude of 3,000 metres, was 800 metres long and over four metres deep. The force of the snow dragged the child for at least 100 metres before he came to a stop, leaving him buried underneath.
Rescue workers soon flew in with a helicopter, while 30 people (including members of the ski patrol and ski-lift workers) joined the Courchevel mountain rescue team to search the snow for him. Eventually, it was a sniffer dog who located the boy, 40 minutes after he had gone missing.
Those who searched for him said that finding him was "miraculous" due to the low chance of survival after less than half the amount of time he spent under the snow. His survival reportedly came down to the fact that his airways were not blocked by the snow, as often happens in these situations. In last year's skiing season, 118 people were swept away by avalanches, resulting in 36 deaths - most of which were caused by asphyxiation.
"He was conscious when he was found because he shouted when he heard the sound played out by the gendarme," said piste manager Luc Nicolino.
The boy was transported to Grenoble hospital, where he was placed under observation. Initial reports suggested he had a fractured leg, but it was later revealed that he only had minor injuries.
"We can call it a miracle. A day after Christmas, there was another gift in store," Captain Patrice Ribes said. "He had a small amount of snow in his mouth and knee and thigh pain but the doctor wasn't worried about him."
"He was dragged several hundred metres without being crushed by the force of the snow," said the commander of the Savoie mountain police, Patrice Ribes, while a representative from the high mountain rescue team (PGHM) claimed that it was a miracle he was found at all.
Gétro the rescue dog and his handler, Raphaël Chauvin, were celebrated for finding the child in time.
"It's a miracle because he was not wearing an avalanche detector (DVA)," a representative from the high mountain rescue team (PGHM) said. "The chances of survival are slim after fifteen minutes in the snow, he was very lucky."