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Boy buried by avalanche tried to bite his way out

'Today': Young Avalanche Survivors Share Frightening Story

NEW YORK (AP) - An 8-year-old western Montana boy who spent about an hour buried in the snow after a deadly avalanche roared into his backyard says he tried to "lick and bite" his way out before becoming tired and falling asleep.

Phoenix Scoles-Coburn, of Missoula, told "Today" show host Matt Lauer on Friday that he doesn't remember the moment the Feb. 28 snow slide hit him. He was playing outside with his 10-year-old sister, Coral, when they heard a noise.

"I looked back, and the tree was wobbling so I ran, and the next thing I knew I was in the snow," the boy said.

Phoenix said he had a bit of an air pocket.

"I tried to lick and like bite my way out because I was too close together to get my hands out," he said. "Then I got so tired, I just fell asleep."

Phoenix's mother, Erin Scoles, said the avalanche sounded like an "airplane crashing in my ears."

"I saw the avalanche hit them, and then I couldn't see anything, and then I ran out the door and seriously, within 10 seconds, there was probably a dozen people with shovels," she told Lauer. "Then a minute later, there were 50 people. It was amazing."

Coral said she was able to quickly get herself out of the snow and ran to her mother, who was yelling for her.

Phoenix suffered a laceration to his spleen and was hospitalized for two days.

The avalanche also buried a couple when it hit and destroyed their house in a residential area at the base of Mount Jumbo. Michel Colville and her husband, retired University of Montana professor Fred Allendorf, also eventually were rescued and hospitalized.

Colville died of her injuries two days later. Allendorf remained hospitalized.

Colville's daughter, Charis Patterson, told KTMF-TV in Missoula that her stepfather suffered severe injuries including 17 broken ribs, a fractured sternum, a fractured foot and three fractured vertebrae in his lower back.

Authorities believe the avalanche was triggered by a snowboarder.

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abcstarfox March 07 2014 at 10:11 PM

Wow!
What an experience for all of them.
Just glad he is ok.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
Tim and Marnie March 08 2014 at 12:23 PM

I AM SO GLAD THAT LIVES WERE SAVED THAT DAY. I am so sorry for the woman who died from her injuries.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
janicejharvey March 08 2014 at 10:29 AM

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what happens when careless people go places they shouldn't and ignore danger postings. That snowboarder really ought to have known better. And I hope they learned their lessons. Can you imagine how it would feel knowing that you, being stupid and wanton, caused a disaster of this magnitude that not only damaged homes, but took a life, injured others, and almost claimed the life of these children?

Learn from this idiot's mistake: check areas carefully before going into them for entertainment purposes so that you don't accidentally cause an avalanche, or set a forest on fire because you didn't realize that the area was going through a drought and everything was significantly drier than what you would expect.

I hope the snowboarder carries this lesson with him for the rest of his life, and feels the weight of the life claimed.

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2 replies
spotapony janicejharvey March 08 2014 at 12:02 PM

Damn show boarder!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Carole janicejharvey March 08 2014 at 1:21 PM

IT was not a mountain but rather a high hill behind the University of Montana - not an area you would expect to have avalanches. This year is very unusual with the amount of snow they have received on that hill and the surrounding area.

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Linda March 08 2014 at 9:24 AM

Don't they set off explosions in these areas that are controlled ways of taking down snow in places that are potential avalanch areas? I know they do it in other states. Doing that is how they safegaurd against such disasters like this. Man, it is sad to think someone died. So sorry for the lady who did not make it. Glad both kids made it out alive. MOTHER NATURE is unforgiving.

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2 replies
junior Linda March 08 2014 at 9:39 AM

This area was OFF limits to humans and the snowboarder FAILED to check out the rules and caused this disaster.

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rwilliamhoward Linda March 08 2014 at 12:11 PM

What's the point? An explosion here would have simply caused the SAME THING, just at an earlier time. The boy might or might not have been buried, but the HOUSE would have been destroyed. The explosions you mention are used more in the Alps. In places where they are set off LONG before the accumulation of snow becomes deadly.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
clarke2689 March 08 2014 at 8:51 AM

SI o glad these children were saved, this little boy is a trooper, and absolutely adorable. I love his hair.Thank God so many were there to help to safety Also glad the family is getting the financial help they need to get another home.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
frozenbull March 08 2014 at 7:44 AM

A snowboarder on private property is what I heard on the news . What happened to the snowboader ,did I miss that part . Or did I read the article wrong . Seems to me he should be "somewhat " responsible here .

Flag Reply +5 rate up
frankc354 March 08 2014 at 7:33 AM

a simple task just playing in the back yard with his sister turns into a live saving episode in just a matter of moments thank God everyone reacted as quick as they did !!

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Franco March 08 2014 at 1:28 AM

That is why I do not live at the base of ANY mountain. :/

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Whad Up Girl! March 08 2014 at 12:55 AM

Find the snowboarder!

Flag Reply +8 rate up
jmpisces28 March 08 2014 at 1:01 PM

lucky kid!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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