ALPINE MEADOWS (CBS13) — There was a dramatic rescue in the Sierra after an avalanche almost swallowed two best friends in their car.
It happened early Monday morning along northbound Highway 89 near Alpine Meadows. The two men are OK and are crediting their survival to their Boy Scout training.
“We slid and hit the snow, then we heard whooshing noise and everything went white — the whole car was surrounded,” said 27-year old Neale Shutler, one of the survivors.
Safe and unharmed, Shutler says he and his best friend, David Ortiz, were blindsided by the avalanche.
“We were a little bit freaked out,” Shutler said.
Ortiz’s car was buried under several feet of snow. Realizing they were stuck, Shutler says his friend turned his car off to avoid allowing carbon monoxide to build up inside, and immediately called 911.
“We were both cold so we took off our socks and he had blankets. We hung out and tried to stay warm,” added Shutler.
The two men took selfies to pass time and even documented their experience using Facebook Live. But the view from the outside was enough to make anyone else panic. Shutler says it only took 45 minutes before first responders showed up.
“It happened pretty quickly; we just went in there and shoveled them out. The whole thing took about 20 minutes,” said Dustin Hollingsworth.
Hollingsworth is a firefighter-paramedic with the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, who helped rescue the two men.
He says Ortiz and Shutler are lucky to have survived.
“I think it was fortunate that we were able to find them quickly in that short amount of time, and it was fortunate for everyone,” Hollingsworth added.
Shutler and Ortiz say it was the Boy Scout in them that kept them leveled during the rescue. It’s an experience not many can live to tell, and it’s now a story Shutler can share for years to come.
“It’s a nice lesson to not pay for in blood,” said Shutler.
Caltrans reports Highway 89 is now open, but the Sierra Avalanche Center is still warning of an avalanche danger. Drivers are being urged to stay away from areas hit hard by the storm.