Three Montanans were buried Friday night by an avalanche that completely wiped out one home and damaged several buildings. One of the victims later died from the incident, but not after a heroic rescue effort from her neighbors.
One local, Paul Koz, said he saw a wall of snow tumble down Mount Jumbo near Missoula, Mt., and saw it pummel a two-story building.
“And then I came with my shovel,” he told KRTV-TV.
Koz, dozens of volunteers and local law enforcement officials rushed to where they saw the avalanche take out the building and searched furiously for survivors. Volunteers started tearing apart the building with chainsaws in hopes of finding their neighbors still alive.
They soon found a child trapped beneath the snow, but the good news was short-lived. Authorities were certain more people were buried under the avalanche.
“We saved a life, she was definitely alive we were right next to her when they pulled her out, and she was moving and alive so it was great,” said volunteer Craig McKay.
Three Montanans, Fred Allendorf, Michelle Jo Colville and eight-year-old Phoenix Scoles-Coburn, were eventually pulled from the snow by neighbors using shovels, makeshift tools and their bare hands.
Local law enforcement officials believe Allendorf and Colville were inside the building and the child was outside playing when the snow hit.
A veteran law enforcement official told KRTV-TV the response to the avalanche was like nothing he had ever seen.
“The response, and public willingness to get involved to search has been phenomenal. It’s kind of an old cliché -during times of crisis people come together and they worked toward a common objective – and that’s what happened here tonight,” Missoula Police Sgt. Travis Welsh said.
Allendorf remains in serious condition and Colville passed away Sunday evening. The eight-year-old was released from the hospital Sunday afternoon.
Missoulaavalanche.org on Saturday explained the avalanche: “A large slab avalanche was triggered by a snowboarder near the top of Mount Jumbo yesterday afternoon. The avalanche ran to the valley floor, destroyed two homes and buried 3 people. A large rescue effort consisting of local first response teams, law enforcement, Search and Rescue personnel and at least 100 nearby residents quickly mobilized to assist with search efforts. All 3 victims were found alive and transported to local hospitals.”
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