- English (US)
- Français (FR)
My nephew Oscar, who was 12 at the time, came to spend a week with me for some adventure over the school holidays. We have a close relationship and are always planning one adventure or another. This year we planned to head into the backcountry for 4 days and I would teach him to snowboard and camp in the snow. This was to be Oscar's first time trying this and I wanted to give him a positive and fun experience with the hope he might continue to pursue the outdoor life which I love so much.
It was September and late in the season here in Australia but there was still snow up in the Kosciusko National park and the weather was calm, perfect Spring skiing conditions. We headed out from Guthega and hiked about 4km out along the trail to Mt Twynam (this was about all he could walk as the poor kid had never walked in snow with snowshoes and a pack before). We reached camp in the afternoon and settled in. The next day was perfect with blue skies and no wind, and we made breakfast and got into the boarding. I went through the basics with Oz and within an hour he was boarding like a champ and we even managed a few small jumps. He was picking it up fast and having a ball. After lunch we decided to go for a walk a little further up the trail where the snow was a little better. We found a great little hill with a gentle slope and a nice long run.
After a few runs up and down the hill, we moved to another area and Oscar set off for another run. He hit a small ice patch and the board dug in toe side and he hit the ground face first. His head hit the ground and his legs bend over his head with his back bending at a hideous angle. As he slid to a stop he was screaming and I ran to him yelling for him to stay still and not move. He was screaming that his neck hurt and I went cold; I told him to move his hands and feet which he could and I breathed a sigh of relief. He was in shock and I wrapped an emergency blanket and my jacket around him. He was in extreme pain but was relatively calm.
It was about 2 pm and I accessed our options. I couldn't move him for fear he had a neck injury, and we only had about 2 1/2 hrs of light left. He was lying on the snow and I had to do something quickly before things got really bad. I grabbed my ACR ResQLink+, which I had bought especially for this trip, opened the ariel and set it off. The strobe flashed reassuringly and I set it out in the open and we waited. A half an hour later I saw 4 skiers returning from Mt Twynam and I flagged them down. They came over and gave Oscar more jackets and 2 stayed to help while the other two headed to our camp to get sleeping bags and try to get phone reception.
On returning they told me they had made contact with the rescue services and my PLB had been logged with an accurate GPS position and help was on the way. There was a helicopter coming in from Canberra with 2 backup teams coming in via foot from Guthega and Charlottes pass. Oscar was still in extreme pain but with the help of the skiers, he was doing ok considering. At about 3.45 pm we heard the sound of the helicopter coming in from the north. It was the best sound I think I had ever heard. After a few passes, it hovered just above the ground and 2 rescue personnel jumped out and headed over. One of them took over the care of Oscar while the other managed the scene. We would have to be winched out as the snow was too unstable to land the helicopter. Once Oscar's neck was braced and transferred to the stretcher the helicopter returned from Guthega and both I and Oscar were winched aboard heading for Canberra.
It had only taken 2 hrs from the time of the accident to Oscar being winched aboard and heading for hospital. Without the PLB I had with me I shudder to think of what might have happened or how we would have got out of there in time. I am happy to say that after a night spent in Canberra emergency, Oscar was released with a relatively clean bill of health. He had suffered minor damage to the ligaments and tendons in his neck but no spinal injury. He was in a neck brace for the next 4 weeks and extremely sore but given the possible alternatives, I considered us very lucky. There is nothing worse than seeing a child, worse of all someone else's child hurt and you being responsible for that. The fall, as I was told later to now calm me down, just an unlucky accident and couldn't have been planned for. I had other safety plans in place but it was solely because of the PLB that we were able to get off the snow as fast as we did and had the best outcome. I am also happy to say that my sister still lets Oscar stay with me on school holidays for adventures.
Without the PLB I had with me, I shudder to think of what might have happened.
Thank you ACR!
Learn how the ...