Avalanche Buries Snowboarder Alive

All of the sudden
everything starts to let go. The ledge and everything. By this time I had
lost my sight of Matt. And the cloud of snow
was so big I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. Thinking he’s dead
and there’s no way I’m ever going to find him. NARRATOR: Michael Walsh
and his younger brother, Matt, thought they had found
the perfect spot for backcountry snowboarding in Wyoming. The mountain bowl had an
over hanging snow drift and deep powder. They parked Michael’s truck and
climbed to the steepest point, never thinking about
avalanche danger. It’s kind of just
a cliff, basically. A snow cliff that builds
up with all the wind. And as it blows it just kind
of curls, and curls, and curls and just builds a big ledge. Well we were sitting
right on the edge of it. The original plan was
we were both going to go down at the same time. I don’t know why I
changed the plan. He was already strapped in
and I had one binding strapped in at this time. And I looked over at him
and I was like, hey Matt, what are you waiting for? NARRATOR: His brother,
Matt, jumped off the ledge and hit the slope below,
triggering a massive avalanche. [AVALANCHE SOUNDS] MATT: All I hear, pop, pop, pop. The whole bowl let’s go. And it sounds like a freight
train running right over me. NARRATOR: Matt slid hundreds
of feet down the mountain caught in the avalanche. The wall of snow
behind him hit hard, burying him under three
feet of heavy packed snow. Michael looked on helplessly. As soon as the snow clears,
no sign of him, nothing. There’s just rocks and
sagebrush and dirt ripped up out of the ground
on top of the snow. To see him disappear like
that and I couldn’t stop it, that was very hard. NARRATOR: Michael had a decision
to make, run to his truck to call search and
rescue or try and find his brother on his own. If I went and
looked first, there was no way I was getting
back up that hill by myself to call search and rescue again. So I just cried out to God. I said, God, what do I do? And I heard him just as loud
as you’re talking to me, go find your brother. I’d never heard God speak
to me like that before and it rocked me. NARRATOR: He ran down the
hill frantically calling his brother’s name. As soon as I get on
to the slide area, where it all settled,
it’s just destruction. And no sign– I’m
looking for a hat, a tip of his board,
a hand, something sticking out of the snow. Nothing. And then I start to
second guess myself. Was that really God telling
me to go find my brother? I just realized there was no
way I was going to find him. There’s nothing, no sign of him. And then I finally
came to a point, I just kind of like gave up. I know it sounds
terrible to give up, but I mean there
was nothing to see. I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t see any sign of him. NARRATOR: Matt laid buried
deep in the heavy snow unable to move. Running out of air and hope. Right when I realized
that I was buried and there was no way
I was moving my body, I was certain I
was going to die. At that point I had given
up on trying to get out. I knew I was going to die. NARRATOR: But as he
lay there praying, he says he felt God’s
presence with him. The peace I felt in
that moment was amazing. It was, I would say, it was
him with me in the moment. I was ready. I knew where I was going. I wasn’t scared. NARRATOR: He heard
God speak to him and remind him of
a prophecy given to Matt’s mother when she
nearly miscarried him as a baby. That the baby would
not die but live and God would do great
things through his life. When he spoke to me I had hope. It was like, OK, this isn’t it. He’s going to
rescue me from this. He’s going to save me. It’s not going to stop here. He’s still got a plan for my
life and a purpose for my life. NARRATOR: Matt says hope
propelled him to action. He had an air
pocket near his face and he was able to dig one
arm towards the surface. Meanwhile, Michael stood
directly above him, unaware of his location. Pretty much I’m about
to fall to my knees and just lose all hope in it. So I just yell one
more time, Matt. The wind is blowing
60 miles an hour. So when you are wearing
a hood and a hat you can’t hear very well. Everything goes dead silent and
I just hear, Mike, I’m fine. There’s no way I
should have heard him. With how hard the
wind was blowing. I turn and I take a step back
and I look under my left foot right before I sat down. I see a whole about the size
of a baseball in the snow. I just start
digging frantically. I dug about two feet and at
this point I was like crazy. It wasn’t really him. And I just kept digging, kept
digging, and dug another foot and I could see the Oakley
symbol on this jacket, that I had just bought him
like a week before that. And I dug to his face
and I could see his face that he was still alive and OK. I started crying like a baby. I was just so happy but so
scared all at the same time. NARRATOR: He spent the next half
hour digging Matt out of what could have been a snowy grave. They say it was
only by God’s grace that they made it out alive. He led me right to the
spot where Matt was. I mean I didn’t
know where he was. I had no idea which
direction he was, which the way it swept him. And to lead me dead
center on top of him, that’s not coincidence. Everything was just– fell
into place just perfect. God met me there, and
was standing there, and held my hand all
the way down that. Kept me safe and him safe. I think I survived because God
has a bigger plan for my life. He has big things
in store for me and I don’t think that
he was going to let that be foiled by an avalanche. I think that he–
it wasn’t his will. I’m definitely very
thankful that God would rescue me from this. That he would work it out in a
way that we both come out OK. Definitely the
scariest thing I’ve ever had happen
to me in my life. Watching my best friend
and thinking he’s dead, there’s no way I’m
ever going to find him. And then having the Lord
meet me there on that hill and be there with
the whole time. He was there. He hears your prayers
in your time of need.

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