Rescue officials said about 100 neighbors converged to help find three people buried Friday when an avalanche swept down a mountain in a residential area of Missoula in Western Montana and crushed a house at the bottom.
“It was very chaotic but a lot of energy,” said Jeff Brandt, assistant chief of operations for the Missoula Fire Department.
Scores of neighbors had already started the rescue effort when he arrived about half an hour after the slide, and some 20 professional responders helped provide focus to the effort, Brandt said. An 8-year-old boy was pulled from the snow just as he arrived, he said.
The three people remained hospitalized Saturday, a day after the avalanche slid down 4,768-foot Mount Jumbo into the northeast Missoula neighborhood, a St. Patrick Hospital spokeswoman said.
Fred Allendorf, 66, a retired professor from the University of Montana, is in serious condition while his wife, Michel Colville, is in critical condition, hospital spokeswoman JoAnn Hoven said. The boy, who hasn’t been named, is in fair condition.
The avalanche was 1,800 feet long and about 300 feet wide at the crown, said Steve Karkanen, director of the Missoula-based West Central Montana Avalanche Center. It came down a 35-degree slope and was then funneled into a gully, where it picked up energy, he said.
Karkanen estimated its speed at 120 to 180 mph when it struck the house.
The couple was in the home while the boy was playing outside when the avalanche hit about 4 p.m., Brandt said. “The avalanche had completely destroyed the house, swept it completely off its foundation and crushed it,” he said.