The Avalanche Review, VOL. 10, NO. 5, MARCH 1992
Copyright © All Rights Reserved; AAA

A Moment in Time: A SURVIVOR'S TALE

by Randy Buck

Editors' note: This was written shortly after the accident. It is taken from a hand-written account produced for the Forest Service's accident investigation team.

Wednesday, March 31, 1982, approximately 3:10 or 3:15. The group going to Squaw had left or was leaving, I'm not sure which. Jeff Skover and I went up to the Patrol Room to see if there was anything we could help out with. I don't remember seeing anyone in the building other than those in the Patrol Room. They were Bernie Kingery, Beth Morrow, Tad DeFelice, and Jake Smith. Jake, Tad, and Beth were getting ready to do road guard.

At approximately 3:20 or 3:25, Anna Conrad and her boyfriend, Frank, came up the stairs and went into the lift-op locker room. Anna came into Patrol to say "hello" and Bernie either asked her or she said she had just cross-countried up the main road. Bernie was fairly upset and proceeded to talk to Anna for 5 or 10 minutes about the extreme avalanche hazard and the special danger on the main road. During this time, Jake left the building to get and gas a snowmobile. While Bernie was talking to Anna, I wandered over to lift-op and saw Frank looking out the window by Billy D.'s office. I also saw a locker open and some jackets out on the bench. I assumed it was Anna's locker and that she had come up to get something from it.

After Bernie finished his "talk," Anna left the room and presumably went back to the locker room. Bernie went into the Patrol Office and we all drifted in after him (Beth, Tad, Jeff, and I). Bernie received a call from the guys going to Squaw saying that they had reached the bottom of KT-22 and would be starting up soon. Beth was sitting in the chair at Bernie's desk scribing, Bernie was by the base station pacing around, I was sitting at Bob Blair's desk, Tad was standing beside me, and Jeff somewhere by the doorway between the office and the main Patrol Room.

It was about 3:40 p.m. that Bernie got a call on the radio from Jake. It was a garbled transmission from where I was except for the word "avalanche." Bernie's concern, and my impression also, was that Jake was seeing an avalanche coming toward him, and that he was about to be buried. Bernie called Jake for his position, but received no answer. As he called Jake back, Bernie paced to the center of the room, and then back towards the window that faces out toward the bottoms of Weasel and Victoria Station lifts. Beth was still scribing, Jeff had moved further into the room, and Tad and I were still in the same position.

It was about five, maybe ten seconds after Jake's transmission when I heard a rumble and the building started to shake. I seem to recall the steel I-beams vibrating at least a foot. Sometime during this shaking I stood up. Quickly following the shaking came a blast of air. I dropped to the floor and curled into a ball. Directly following the airblast was a lot of snow. I was completely engulfed and pushed around by the snow. As I felt the snow slowing and starting to settle, I pushed up and brought my hands to my face.

When the snow stopped, I pushed my head up and almost immediately broke the surface. I realized that 1 was still in the confines of what had been the Patrol Office and that Tad was right next to me. Tad's head and shoulders were above the snow. I pulled myself completely out of the snow and looked around. I could see debris all around the building, but I saw no obvious bodies. I tried to help Tad out, but his leg was really stuck. I then asked him if he was in any pain. He said no, so I tried to dig in the immediate area in the snow.

About 3 or 4 minutes after the avalanche, a few people came up from the lower shop area. They began searching through the debris and found Jeff almost immediately. I heard the shout when they found him and realized that Bernie and Beth were probably out of the building more towards where Jeff had been found. I then helped Tad all the way out and we both got down and started probing with shovel handles. After about a half hour my back really started to hurt and I went into the lodge.

In 1982, Randy Buck was a lodge maintenance employee at Alpine Meadows.

The Avalanche Review, VOL. 10, NO. 5, MARCH 1992
Copyright © All Rights Reserved; AAA