Utah snowmobiler digs brother out of avalanche, says one thing saved his life

NORTHERN UTAH (KTSU) -- It was a close call when a Tremonton man got trapped in an avalanche this week while he and his family were snowmobiling near the Utah—Idaho border.

Kaden Francis of Tremonton described the moment the avalanche began.

“It sounded like thunder rolling through the trees," he said. "You could hear limbs breaking and trees snapping. It was scary."

As the deafening sound echoed through the mountains, the football-field-sized avalanche tore through the hillside near the Franklin Basin of Logan Canyon. Francis quickly realized his 20-year-old brother was trapped in the slide.

“I called over the radio and said, “Avalanche. Avalanche. Trace was buried,” Francis said.

Not knowing where he was, Francis searched for his brother's avalanche airbag, praying he deployed it.

“When I finally saw the airbag and it was against the tree, I just, I mean: Worst case scenario is what comes to mind,” he said.

His brother was buried under the thick, heavy snow—his head barely above the surface.

“I started running towards him, he's only 50 yards away from me up the hill, but with that deep of snow it felt like it took me an hour to get to him,” Francis said.

Thankfully his brother was OK, but his foot was pinned between the snowmobile and the tree.

“He kept saying, ‘hurry, hurry my leg,’ and we couldn't dig fast enough," he said. "Time stood still. Everything we did just seemed too slow."

For 45 minutes, Trace's brother, father and uncle struggled to get him out. The snowmobile was crushed, and Trace walked away unharmed.

But Francis says without the right gear, things could have ended tragically.

“We would not have found him. He would have been completely buried. That [avalanche air bag] is what saved his life. He would have been completely under,” Francis said of what could have been.

And as an experienced snowmobiler, he has a message for other outdoor enthusiasts.

“We thought it’s never going to happen to us, never going to happen," he said. "It’s not a matter of if, it's when.".

During the winter season, there are countless close calls like this, but some aren't so lucky. On average, four people die in avalanches every year in Northern Utah.

The Utah Avalanche Center says this is a reminder to always check conditions before recreating in the mountains and to ensure you have the right gear.

The Francis family expressed their gratitude for those at the Utah Avalanche Center and the work they do.

RELATED: Hotel in Italy hit by avalanche

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Hotel in Italy hit by avalanche
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Hotel in Italy hit by avalanche
A mountain view from the main road to Monterale, after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck the region, on January 19, 2017. Several people have died after a ski hotel was buried by an avalanche in earthquake-hit central Italy, local media reported quoting rescue services. 'There are many dead,' Antonio Crocetta, the head of a group of Alpine police that was trying to reach the cut-off hotel, was quoted as saying. / AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
Firefighters arrive near Hotel Rigopiano, hit by an avalanche, in Farindola, central Italy, in this January 19, 2017 handout picture provided by Italy's firefighters. Vigili del Fuoco/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
An aerial view shows Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, hit by an avalanche, in this January 19, 2017 handout picture provided by Italy's firefighters. Vigili del Fuoco/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Snow covers a car of the Italian Civil Protection (Protezione Civile) parked at a nearby sports ground in Montereale, after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck the region, on January 19, 2017. / AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
A car drives along the main road to Monterale, after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck the region, on January 19, 2017. Several people have died after a ski hotel was buried by an avalanche in earthquake-hit central Italy, local media reported quoting rescue services. 'There are many dead,' Antonio Crocetta, the head of a group of Alpine police that was trying to reach the cut-off hotel, was quoted as saying. / AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken from a video shows the snow inside the Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, hit by an avalanche, in this January 19, 2017 handout picture provided by Italy's Finance Police.
A photo taken from a video shows the snow inside the Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, hit by an avalanche, in this January 19, 2017 handout picture provided by Italy's Finance Police.
A photo taken from a video shows the snow inside the Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, hit by an avalanche, in this January 19, 2017 handout picture provided by Italy's Finance Police.
An aerial photo shows the rescuers heading to Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, hit by an avalanche, in this January 19, 2017 handout picture provided by Italian Police.
A photo taken from a video shows a survivor, helped by rescuers, coming out from Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, hit by an avalanche, in this January 19, 2017 handout picture provided by Italy's Finance Police.
A photo taken from a video shows a rescuer entering the Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, hit by an avalanche, in this January 19, 2017 handout picture provided by Italy's Finance Police.
A photo taken from a video shows a rescuer entering the Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, hit by an avalanche, in this January 19, 2017 handout picture provided by Italy's Finance Police.
Dogs stand in front of a large tent on a nearby sports ground in Montereale, after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck the region, on January 19, 2017. Several people have died after a ski hotel was buried by an avalanche in earthquake-hit central Italy, local media reported quoting rescue services. 'There are many dead,' Antonio Crocetta, the head of a group of Alpine police that was trying to reach the cut-off hotel, was quoted as saying. / AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
A mountain view taken along the main road to Monterale, after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck the region, on January 19, 2017. Several people have died after a ski hotel was buried by an avalanche in earthquake-hit central Italy, local media reported quoting rescue services. 'There are many dead,' Antonio Crocetta, the head of a group of Alpine police that was trying to reach the cut-off hotel, was quoted as saying. / AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
Two dogs wonder past a vehicle and mounds of snow at a nearby sports ground in Montereale, after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck the region, on January 19, 2017. Several people have died after a ski hotel was buried by an avalanche in earthquake-hit central Italy, local media reported quoting rescue services. 'There are many dead,' Antonio Crocetta, the head of a group of Alpine police that was trying to reach the cut-off hotel, was quoted as saying. / AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
A mountain view from the main road to Monterale, after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake struck the region, on January 19, 2017. Several people have died after a ski hotel was buried by an avalanche in earthquake-hit central Italy, local media reported quoting rescue services. 'There are many dead,' Antonio Crocetta, the head of a group of Alpine police that was trying to reach the cut-off hotel, was quoted as saying. / AFP / ANDREAS SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
A photo taken from a video shows a survivor, helped by rescuers, coming out from Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, hit by an avalanche, in this January 19, 2017 handout picture provided by Italy's Finance Police.     
A still image taken from a video shows firefighters working at Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, after it was hit by an avalanche, January 20, 2017 provided by Italy's Fire Fighters. Vigili del Fuoco/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A still image taken from a video shows a firefighter working at Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, after it was hit by an avalanche, January 20, 2017 provided by Italy's Fire Fighters. Vigili del Fuoco/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A still image taken from a video shows firefighters working at Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, after it was hit by an avalanche, January 20, 2017 provided by Italy's Fire Fighters.Vigili del Fuoco/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A still image taken from a video shows the snow inside the Hotel Rigopiano, central Italy, after it was hit by an avalanche, January 20, 2017 provided by Italy's Fire Fighters. Vigili del Fuoco/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Firefighters work at Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, central Italy, after it was hit by an avalanche, in this handout picture released on January 20, 2017 provided by Italy's Fire Fighters. Vigili del Fuoco/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Italian air helicopters rescuers join the rescue operation near the village of Penne, after an avalanche engulfed the mountain hotel Rigopiano in Farindola in the earthquake-ravaged central Italy, on January 20, 2017. At least 25 people, including several children, were feared dead after a barrage of snow hit the Hotel Rigopiano on Januray 18, afternoon, ripping the three-storey building from its foundations and moving it ten metres (11 yards). / AFP / Andreas SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
Italian air helicopters rescuers join the rescue operation near the village of Penne, after an avalanche engulfed the mountain hotel Rigopiano in Farindola in the earthquake-ravaged central Italy, on January 20, 2017. At least 25 people, including several children, were feared dead after a barrage of snow hit the Hotel Rigopiano on Januray 18, afternoon, ripping the three-storey building from its foundations and moving it ten metres (11 yards). / AFP / Andreas SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
Italian air helicopters rescuers join the rescue operation near the village of Penne, after an avalanche engulfed the mountain hotel Rigopiano in Farindola in the earthquake-ravaged central Italy, on January 20, 2017. At least 25 people, including several children, were feared dead after a barrage of snow hit the Hotel Rigopiano on Januray 18, afternoon, ripping the three-storey building from its foundations and moving it ten metres (11 yards). / AFP / Andreas SOLARO (Photo credit should read ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers remove snow next to a house on a road to the village of Penne, after an avalanche engulfed the mountain hotel Rigopiano in Farindola in earthquake-ravaged central Italy, on January 19, 2017. At least 25 people, including several children, were feared dead after a barrage of snow hit the Hotel Rigopiano on Wednesday afternoon, ripping the three-storey building from its foundations and moving it ten metres (11 yards). / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE (Photo credit should read FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)
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