04. May 2022

Challenging mission: Air Zermatt rescues skier from covered glacier stream

At the weekend, Air Zermatt was called to an extraordinary rescue operation in the creek of the Furggletscher glacier. A skier broke through the snow cover into a raging glacier stream and was dragged along for several metres. Thanks to the well-rehearsed rescue crew, the victim was rescued and survived the accident.  

Another mission that pushed the mountain rescuers of Air Zermatt to their limits: last Sunday, an Italian man fell through a blanket of snow while skiing off-piste on the Furgg glacier and fell into the glacier stream below. 
Due to the current of the water and the steepness of the stream bed, the victim was washed down the valley several metres under the closed snow cover. His companion immediately alerted the rescue services. After a few minutes, an Air Zermatt rescue helicopter arrived at the scene of the accident. Due to the unclear situation, both avalanche and crevasse rescue equipment was transported.  
Since it was not possible to locate the victim immediately under the closed snow cover, four additional rescue specialists were brought to the accident site by helicopter for the on-site search. In addition, several paramedics and flight assistants from Air Zermatt as well as an avalanche dog handler and a diver were called in. 
After an hour and ten metres below the collapse site, the victim was finally located with a sounding rod. However, the rescue was no less difficult: Since the next available diver was in the Rhone valley and the condition of the victim had deteriorated so much in the meantime, a rescue specialist was abseiled into the glacier stream without further ado. In the darkness of the covered streambed, in the rushing ice water, he was able to secure the lethargic Italian. With the help of the crevasse rescue equipment, the now unresponsive patient was pulled to the light of day.
The rescue came at the last second, the victim remained in the glacier water for two hours and was by now massively hypothermic. With a core body temperature of 26 degrees, he was flown to the Inselspital Bern. 
The rescue, which was not an everyday occurrence, was successful; in the meantime, the ski tourer could be rehabilitated and is well. "We owe this not least to the optimal cooperation between pilot, paramedic and rescue specialists," said the doctor on duty after the mission. 
The accident occurred at a popular photo subject, the ice grotto. Although it is located off the piste, it is visited by many skiers every year.


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