1 injured, several caught in Avalanche at Squaw Valley resort near Lake Tahoe

Saturday, March 3, 2018
1 injured, several caught in Avalanche at Squaw Valley resort near Lake Tahoe
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The Placer County Sheriff's Office says they have responded to an avalanche at Squaw Valley and that all people are accounted for.

LAKE TAHOE, Calif. (KGO) -- There was a dramatic rescue in the Sierra Friday night after five people were trapped in an avalanche at Squaw Valley ski resort.

The snow piled up at Squaw Valley. Five feet of snow is expected by Saturday but all that snow has created big danger.

"You've got people crying for help, so you gotta go help them," said skier Joe Breault.

That's what Breault from Sacramento did. He helped dig out a snowboarder buried in the avalanche. Five people were trapped underneath three feet of snow.

The snowboarder was unconscious when he was found. The ski patrol says he was buried for six minutes.

One witness, Heather Turning, crawled 30 yards to reach him and clear the snow from his face.

"We started screaming and shaking him," said Breault. "He came to and his first words were, 'where's my wife.'"

The boarder named Evan, was reunited with his wife minutes later. Remarkably, he wasn't injured. Four others were rescued. One suffered a serious lower body injury.

Sadly, the body of a snowboarder was found at Squaw Valley Friday morning -- 42-year-old Wenyu Zhang of Rocklin went missing in a blizzard.

He was reported missing by friends Thursday night.

The dangerous winter weather claimed the life of a second snowboarder at the China Peak resort near Fresno.

Officials say the man was off the groomed run when he fell head-first into deep powder and suffocated.

It is unknown what caused Friday's avalanche at Squaw Valley.

"It's a good day," said Breault. "I'm going to take a sauna, have a beer, and say a prayer."

Squaw Valley will reopen Saturday.

Read Squaw Valley's full statement here: "At 1:40 p.m. today, guests reported an inbounds avalanche in an area near Olympic Lady chairlift at Squaw Valley Ski Resort. Squaw Valley Ski Patrol and Alpine Meadows Ski Patrol immediately responded to the scene and were joined by Placer County Sherriff's Office, North Tahoe Fire, Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue, and Homewood Ski Patrol. Five guests were caught in the avalanche, two females and three males. One guest suffered a serious lower body injury and was transported by North Tahoe Fire Department to Tahoe Forest Hospital.

Another guest was rescued by Squaw Valley rescue teams, transported to the Tahoe Truckee Medical Group at the base of Squaw Valley, and then was subsequently released. The three other guests who were caught in the avalanche left the scene unharmed. In total, over 100 professional ski patrollers, emergency responders, and multiple avalanche rescue dogs responded to the incident. Rescue teams performed numerous searches and ultimately cleared the scene. All reported missing persons are accounted for at this time, and search operations have officially concluded.

The trigger of the avalanche is unknown at this time, but a full investigation of the incident and its cause will be conducted.

Squaw Valley is closed for the remainder of the day due to avalanche hazard.

The safety of our guests and staff is of the utmost importance to us. We hope for the full and speedy recovery of the injured guests, and extend our thoughts and support to all those involved. The Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows team extends its immense appreciation for the professionalism of all of the staff and responding agencies involved in this incident."