An American professional freeskier was reportedly one of two killed in an avalanche in Central Japan Sunday.
Professional freeskier Kyle Smaine of Lake Tahoe was reportedly killed in an avalanche on Mount Hakuba Norikura near Nagano while on a marketing trip organized by the Nagano tourism board and a private company, CBS News reported.
Smaine was reportedly backcountry skiing with five other skiers when the avalanche engulfed them. A group of eight other skiers witnessed the incident and rushed to help dig out the survivors, according to The Associated Press.
While Japanese authorities have not confirmed the identities of the deceased, Washington-based pro skier Adam Ü and ski photographer Grant Gunderson, who was working for the outdoor specialist publication The Mountain Gazette, were present during the “absolute nightmare scenario.” Gunderson stated they witnesses to something that they will be “rehashing” for the rest of their lives.
View this post on Instagram
“We heard the crack. We realized it is a big one. We started running and then we got hit,” Ü recalled, according to The Mountain Gazette. (RELATED: Brothers Go On Heli-Skiing Trip In Canada, Die From Avalanche)
Gunderson revealed that Smaine and Ü had tried to outrun the slide, but were subsequently caught up in the snow and buried.
“Adam was buried 1.5 meters deep for 25 minutes and [was] unscathed. That is a miracle. The skier buried next to him died from internal injuries. Kyle was thrown 50 meters by the air blast and buried and killed,” Gunderson revealed on his Instagram.
Two Canadian mountain guides and four or five doctors were among the group of eight skiers who worked to dig out the five, Gunderson stated. Though they attempted to perform CPR on the individual identified only as an Austrian skier, he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards, the Gazette reported. Smaine, too, was unresponsive with no vital signs. “The doctors did everything they could for Kyle and the other skier,” Gunderson wrote.
The survivors walked their way down the mountain with the group of eight skiers. Rescuers reached the avalanche site Monday morning and recovered the bodies, according to The AP.