Friday, April 07, 2006

Two Days After We Left Utah

SUV Carrying Nine Swept Away by Avalanche
April 6th, 2006 @ 9:37pm

Jed Boal Reporting
"At one point I knew we were in mid-air, just waiting for the rolling and crashing to stop."
It's an incredible tale of a terrifying tumble. An avalanche sweeps an SUV off Little Cottonwood Road. Inside was a family of seven and two hitchhikers. The family is on a ski vacation and survived the ride of their lives near the White Pines Slide Area.
The heavy snow triggered many avalanches in the canyons today. Little Cottonwood Canyon is closed right now and won't re-open until the morning.
As the Thomas family drove down from Alta, an avalanche plowed them right off the road. Michael Thomas, his wife and five young kids skied in blizzard conditions all day. But it was the drive down the mountain the St. Louis family will never forget. They had picked up two Alta workers thumbing a ride and headed down the ice-packed road.
Michael Thomas: "Driving down the road. The next thing you know, we're off the road and tumbling."
Their large SUV went over the edge in the White Pines slide area half way up the canyon. They landed hanging upside down in seat belts. One of the teenage workers kicked out a window. Thomas estimated they rolled 100-150 feet down the canyon.
Adam Thomas, 10-Year Old: "All I remember is white, and my seatbelt holding me right here, bumping around."
Amazingly, no one was hurt. The worst of it was the scrapes and bruises on 10-year old Adam's face. His two younger brothers and two younger sisters are fine. Rescue crews were amazed.
Sgt. Todd Griffiths, Salt Lake County Sherriff's Office: "When we got to it, there was little kids climbing up out of the snow. All covered in snow. You know, it was little three-year old snowballs crawling out of there. So it was pretty exciting to see that they were all okay."
Little Cottonwood Canyon was closed all afternoon for avalanche control. It was re-opened around 5 pm about an hour before the Thomas family drove down.
Michael Thomas: "Just a little shooken up, but fabulous condition. Happy to be alive."
Little Cottonwood Canyon will not re-open until morning, that's when crews will retrieve the SUV. Also, Big Cottonwood closed to all but local traffic.
It's their first time skiing in Utah, but they say they'll be back.


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