Off-duty firefighter helped Neffs Canyon avalanche victim

Dec 15, 2022, 5:30 PM
an ambulance and fire truck are pictured at the neffs canyon avalanche...
Emergency crews are pictured responding to the Neffs Canyon avalanche on Dec. 14, 2022. (Jed Boal, KSL TV)
(Jed Boal, KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — When a 35-year-old skier was buried in an avalanche in Neffs Canyon on Wednesday it was an off-duty firefighter who found him and then helped in his rescue.

Tom Elbrecht with the Unified Fire Authority said he was out with his dog in Neffs Canyon on Wednesday when he heard noises.

“I didn’t really know what it was, or skiers talking to each other, but got a little higher and heard distinctly a ‘help.’ I got it back and he responded right away,” Elbrecht told Dave and Dujanovic.

Elbrecht said he continued to call to the skier before he came across the path of the avalanche. He said he then made his way to the skier, trying to find a safe path that wouldn’t cause another avalanche. 

When Elbrecht found the skier, he was pinned to a tree.

“Buried a couple feet of snow just had an arm sticking out and one foot was wrapped around the tree.”

Elbrecht helped the skier out, assessed him, and called for help. He stayed with the man for hours as they awaited rescue teams.

When search and rescue arrived, a group of responders helped the skier down the mountain. The 35-year-old had a broken femur and a broken arm as well as possible hypothermia.

Elbrecht applauded the rescue team that helped the injured skier. He said the rescue was a result of several people’s coordination, not just his own efforts.

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Off-duty firefighter helped Neffs Canyon avalanche victim