Avalanche survivor shares his story: 'It was just like drowning'

The photos are chilling.They show a man, trapped in the snow, barely breathing and unable to move. His friends...

Posted: Jan 25, 2018 6:23 PM
Updated: Jan 25, 2018 6:23 PM

The photos are chilling.

They show a man, trapped in the snow, barely breathing and unable to move. His friends are frantically digging and know that every second matters.

For 34-year-old Kyle Pratt, it's a nightmare he has thought about nearly every day since he was buried in an avalanche two years ago.

"It's just like drowning. It's pitch black, you inhale plenty of snow and you can't hear a thing. Nothing. It's just as black as can be," Pratt tells EastIdahoNews.com. "Until you experience it, you can't mentally understand how it is."

Pratt was snowmobiling with six friends in Island Park that January 2016 day. They were in the same area where two men died in separate avalanches earlier this month.

As he stopped near some trees, he saw a mountain of snow barreling toward him.

"I looked up and saw a patch of snow in the trees broke free," Pratt recalls. "Because I was in the bottom of the canyon, it just blew over and filled up the canyon."

Pratt's six friends were fine. They rushed over to him, grabbed shovels from their emergency kits and began digging. Pratt says he quickly blacked out.

"Until you're in an avalanche you don't believe that it flows like water and sets up like concrete," Pratt explains. "Snow fills up your helmet and fills everything up. Whatever position you're in, you're stuck."

After three minutes of digging, Pratt's friends were able to uncover his head and, eventually, his entire body. His feet were around 10 feet under ground.

"Once they got me out, it took seven of us nonstop digging about two hours to get my sled out," Pratt says. "We had the whole sled undone, had ropes tied to it at the same time and all seven guys heaved. It didn't move so we had to keep digging."

An average of 27 people die in avalanches every year in the United States, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Seven fatalities have been reported in the 2017-2018 season with four being snowmobilers and three being skiers.

Experts say some of those deaths could be prevented if snowmobilers, skiers and snowboarders in the backcountry carried safety gear like beacons, shovels, probes and air bags.

Beau Stoddart, one of Pratt's friends, has been snowmobiling for years. He carries emergency gear with him and says safety is nothing to mess around with.

"It's buy the gear or die. This is life or death," Stoddart says. "If you don't want to spend the money and do what it takes to be in back country, then find a different hobby. Find a better sport."

Ironically, the avalanche wasn't Pratt's first near-death experience.

In 2012, he was recording a video while snowmobiling when the snow beneath him suddenly cracked and he nearly fell off a 1,500 foot cliff. Within 24 hours, the video went viral and has now been viewed over three million times on YouTube.

"Probably 15 foot from the edge (of the cliff), a chunk of snow broke off," Pratt remembers. "My skis were hanging over the edge and I was gonna bail."

Fortunately he was able to slowly back away from the cliff with his machine and make it to safety.

After defying death twice on a snowmobile, Pratt says he's learned his lesson. He always wears safety gear whenever he rides knowing that life can change in a split second.

"If you're out in the back country on a snow machine and you don't have the equipment, you shouldn't be there. It's as simple as that," he says.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 501097

Reported Deaths: 9990
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34338538
DeSoto32117403
Hinds31939628
Jackson24494382
Rankin21995390
Lee15543235
Madison14581280
Jones13851242
Forrest13453251
Lauderdale11991317
Lowndes11050188
Lamar10521135
Pearl River9533237
Lafayette8550140
Hancock7732127
Washington7438158
Oktibbeha7146131
Monroe6777177
Warren6694176
Pontotoc6664102
Neshoba6637206
Panola6531131
Marshall6467134
Bolivar6317148
Union602894
Pike5820152
Alcorn5669101
Lincoln5436135
George496879
Scott472898
Tippah469281
Prentiss467281
Leflore4658144
Itawamba4636105
Tate4588111
Adams4587119
Copiah448592
Simpson4446116
Yazoo444187
Wayne439772
Covington428894
Sunflower4239105
Marion4226108
Coahoma4160105
Leake408288
Newton381779
Grenada3707108
Stone360364
Tishomingo359792
Attala331589
Jasper329965
Winston314291
Clay308076
Chickasaw300367
Clarke292494
Calhoun279446
Holmes267987
Smith264050
Yalobusha234047
Tallahatchie228051
Greene219348
Walthall218763
Lawrence212940
Perry205556
Amite205156
Webster202946
Noxubee186740
Montgomery179656
Jefferson Davis171743
Carroll169138
Tunica159839
Benton148838
Kemper141941
Choctaw133426
Claiborne132737
Humphreys129538
Franklin120228
Quitman106428
Wilkinson105139
Jefferson94534
Sharkey64120
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 818652

Reported Deaths: 15378
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1147091924
Mobile724971336
Madison52231697
Shelby37575349
Baldwin37224549
Tuscaloosa35073612
Montgomery34092739
Lee23519246
Calhoun22221482
Morgan20910378
Etowah19816498
Marshall18338303
Houston17360412
St. Clair16034339
Cullman15406293
Limestone15328199
Elmore15186286
Lauderdale14270295
Talladega13827281
DeKalb12637261
Walker11180370
Blount10179176
Autauga9967148
Jackson9860183
Coffee9205191
Dale8884185
Colbert8840201
Tallapoosa7079198
Escambia6766132
Covington6706183
Chilton6633161
Russell635259
Franklin5959105
Chambers5607142
Marion4995126
Dallas4949200
Pike4791105
Clarke475484
Geneva4568127
Winston4507103
Lawrence4309117
Bibb424686
Barbour357576
Marengo337890
Monroe331463
Randolph329864
Butler325896
Pickens315682
Henry311966
Hale311188
Cherokee302360
Fayette292379
Washington251351
Cleburne247460
Crenshaw244875
Clay243068
Macon234163
Lamar223347
Conecuh185953
Coosa180040
Lowndes174764
Wilcox168739
Bullock151644
Perry138340
Sumter132938
Greene126644
Choctaw88227
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 62°
Columbus
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 61°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 62°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 61°
Clear cool and dry to begin your weekend, but both afternoons should be a little bit above what we expect for this time of year temperature wise. Rain chances begin to return late Sunday night, with at least two chances for storms over the next week, summer could be strong.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather