Natural Resources

Avalanches

Date: May 5, 2002

Location: Richards Brook Pond 2km outside Forteau, Labrador

Easting: 501400

Northing: 5702700

Latitude: 51° 28' 00" N

Longitude: 56° 58' 00" W

Fatalities: 0

Injuries: 0

Source: Northern Pen, May 13, 2002. On file

In May of 2002 two teenagers were very lucky to escape serious injury or death near the small village of Forteau. A storm had hit southern Labrador on Friday and Saturday with over 30 cm of wet heavy snow falling. Sunday, May 5, however was a sunny day, with temperatures above freezing. A group of young people from Forteau took advantage of the good weather to take snowmobiles and sleds to Richard's Brook Pond. Steep cliffs surround the head of the pond, and the local youngsters often went here to slide on the slopes and socialize. Jason Layden (aged 16) and Meagan Buckle (aged 14) decided to climb to the top of the steep slope, and were sitting under the brow chatting. They had chosen a sheltered spot, where the blowing snow had formed an overhanging cornice over their heads.

Randy Flynn was on the slopes close to them, and was shocked when without warning the overhanging snow broke away and collapsed, burying his two friends. Randy rushed over to the area where he'd last seen them and started digging frantically with his hands. He was soon joined by others; in the meantime one of the other youths called for help using a cell-phone, and others left on snow mobiles to get shovels. Randy and his brother Tyler led the rescue efforts and within 5 to 10 minutes they had located Jason, who was buried under 1 to 2 metres of snow. Once they had cleared breathing space for him, they continued to search for Meagan. They thought she should be buried close to Jason, but widened the search further down-slope as they found no sign of her.

In the meantime, rescuers had arrived from Forteau with shovels. Tyler Flynn grabbed a broom handle, and started probing the snow. Testing the area below where they found Jason he felt a hard object, and called rescuers in with shovels. His broom-stick had struck Meagan's arm, and she quickly rescued from beneath two metres of snow. She had been buried 30 minutes or more, but was still conscious, and her first words on rescue were asking after her companion. She had remained conscious throughout and had heard the rescuers walking over her. She was fortunate in that when the cornice collapsed, she was buried in a sitting position. The snow had hit her back, and pressed her head down between her knees, thus creating a breathing space for her.

The various rescuers did an excellent job in planning and executing their rescue. With no training in avalanche rescue, they showed considerable common sense. They likely saved Meagan's life by their prompt and sensible actions.

 
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