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Massachusetts hikers survive slide at Tuckerman Ravine

PORTLAND, Maine —When the snow on Tuckerman Ravine gave way under Adam Herman’s feet Sunday, it was the beginning of a 12-hour ordeal for the hiker from Oak Bluffs, Mass.

Herman was hiking back down from the summit with a friend when the mountain gave way, taking them with it.

Watch NewsCenter 5’s report

Herman is being treated at Maine Medical Center for a broken back, seven fractures in his right arm and a broken collarbone.

“We were having a blast,” Herman said. “Connor and I were just doing a day trip, and R.J. and Tristan were going to stay for a few more days.”

Herman was with his friend, Connor Lodge, at the summit at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday. In less than an hour, they would be hurtling down Tuckerman Ravine in an avalanche.

“I remember being in the air for a while,” Herman said. “I was able to think to myself, ‘Wow. I’ve been falling for a long time.'”

According to the ranger’s report, it was a 90-foot free fall and an 800-foot slide.

“I’d like, launch off ramps every so often, and I’d be in the air for a certain amount of time until I hit the ground again and keep going like that,” he said.

Herman was bleeding heavily but conscious. Lodge came to a stop further up and slid down to be with his friend. They realized they had to hike back up to a checkpoint to try to get help.

Just then, their friends R.J. and Tristan appeared.

“Tristan said, ‘Cuddle up close with each other. We’re going to go get help. Just hang tight,'” Herman said. “Yeah, he left us. It was really, really scary, the thought of that, but I didn’t know what else to do.”

Help came in stages. There was false hope at one point when they heard a snowmobile in the distance, but it faded away.

A pair of hikers climbed up from the AMC shelter, bringing company, food and blankets, and then finally the rangers at about 1 a.m. The slope was too steep for a sled, so Herman had to hike down himself, broken bones and all.

Would he do it again?

“In the spring time,” he said, laughing. “I was having a great time until that happened.”

Herman said he will be in a back brace for at least three months and has to have one more surgery on his arm. He said he hopes to go home to Martha’s Vineyard by Friday.

His friend, Lodge, is already out of the hospital and is at home recovering from a concussion, a lot of bruises and a couple of broken teeth.

Two recent snowstorms have helped to create ripe conditions for deadly avalanches out west. One skier recalls being swept up by a wave of powder and his fear that he would “suffocate to death under the snow.” NBC’s Joe Fryer reports

Watching video: Skier survives avalanche, while others aren’t so lucky  via @nbcnews
By Simon Moya-Smith, Staff Writer, NBC News

A skier and snowmobile driver both died Thursday in separate avalanches just 20 miles apart near the Wyoming-Idaho border, officials said Saturday. Skier Mike Kazanjy, 29, was skiing on a slope known as Pucker Face in Wyoming with five others when he triggered an avalanche, Mike Rheam, avalanche forecaster with the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center, told NBC News. Kazanjy was the first to go down the mountain at about 1 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET), Rheam said. He made about two or three turns before the avalanche was triggered, burying him under the snow. Kazanjy’s body was located with an avalanche transceiver, which helped parties nearby to quickly dig him out, Rheam said. Kazanjy was buried under the snow for an estimated 12 to 13 minutes before he was found.

Two hours later and 20 miles away, snowmobile driver Rex J. Anderson, 39, of Arco, Idaho, was buried under snow for 10 minutes after he was caught in an avalanche near Waterfall Canyon in Idaho at 3 p.m., Sgt. Jeff Edwards, spokesman for the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho Falls, told NBC News. Edwards said Anderson tried to beat the avalanche by racing it down the mountain in his snowmobile, but was “overcome and buried.” Anderson was the only person in a group of eight who was caught in the avalanche, Rheam said. Individuals nearby located him with an avalanche transmitter. They dug him out of the snow and attempted to administer CPR, but he was unresponsive. “They couldn’t get him revived,” Rheam said. A rescue helicopter was dispatched from Idaho Falls and arrived at the scene 37 minutes after the emergency call, Edwards said. When Anderson was taken to a nearby hospital, an officer reported back to Edwards that the victim also appeared to have suffered trauma to his neck. Rheam said that on Thursday the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center’s avalanche advisory was categorized as moderate, which doesn’t mean conditions are particularly safe. He said under moderate conditions natural avalanches are not expected, but human-triggered avalanches are, in fact, possible. “It’s still a dangerous rating,” he said. Kazanjy was a University of California, Berkeley graduate and former Bay Area resident, according to NBC affiliate KNTV. Anderson leaves behind two young children and a wife who had bought him an airbag safety unit meant to inflate during avalanches, Edwards said. The airbag inflates protecting vital parts of the body, so the weight of the snow doesn’t crush an individual’s head or chest. Anderson’s wife told police that her husband always took that safety kit with him, but this time he didn’t.