KUSA - Determination and quick thinking saved a man caught in an avalanche that took his friend's life.
A newly published report reveals how Sean Searle survived when the snow started sliding in the Flat Tops Wilderness area near Steamboat Springs earlier this month.
What started as a normal day on the mountain quickly took a turn for the worse for Sean Searle and Jesse Christensen.
The two men were riding snow bikes on a slope near the Sheriff Reservoir in Garfield County.
According to the report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Searle was about halfway across the slope when he heard a loud sound.
He saw two cracks shooting across the slope, then saw snow coming his way and lost sight of Christiansen.
Searle tried to activate his airbag but it didn't fully inflate. Sliding snow hit his bike and threw him from it.
As the snow swept him down the mountain, Searle said he swam through it using dolphin kicks to get above it.
After seeing a dead tree, he grabbed it and was able to stop. He then saw snow knocking over other trees as it continued down.
Searle looked and yelled for Christiansen but couldn't find him. And he couldn't get his avalanche transceiver to pick up a signal.
He happened upon snowmobile tracks he believed were from the search and rescue team, and followed them until he ran out of gas.
Searle then started hiking after his rescuers, and saw a helicopter. After failing to signal down the helicopter, he stomped out ‘HELP’ in the snow, with an arrow indicating his travel direction.
The helicopter eventually found him and flew him back to the Sheriff Reservoir.
That's when he was reunited with his wife Stacie before taken away in an ambulance.
The body of 55-year-old Jesse Christensen was recovered the following day.
The CAIC says three separate avalanches happened around the same time, and the report suggests one of the snow bikes triggered the slide.
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