A 12-year-old boy was found alive after being buried by an avalanche in the French Alps for more than an hour.
The local rescuers, who are used to pulling frozen lifeless bodies from the snow if they aren’t found within 15 minutes, said finding the London schoolboy, woozy from breathing his own carbon dioxide, but still conscious, was a “miracle.”
The boy, identified only as Hector in local reports, was skiing on an unauthorized slope at the La Plagne ski resort on Boxing Day with his father and others when they were hit by an avalanche.
He was swept several hundred meters down the slope, according to local reports, surviving the 1 meter (about 3.3 feet) depth of snow, because of small cracks that allowed air to reach him.
When he heard that the boy was missing, and the group wasn’t equipped with locator beacons, local rescuer Sergeant-Major Raphael Chovin said his heart sank.
Few people survive beyond 15 minutes—and without a locator beacon, a shovel or other survival gear, the chances are even slimmer.
But one hour and three minutes later, his specially trained dog, Gétro, found the boy.
Chovin said Hector was still conscious and able to speak when they dug him out.
“He had not inhaled snow and had no snow plugs in his mouth,” Chovin told Le Matin. “He was in shock. He was both restless and sleepy—partially intoxicated because he breathed the carbon dioxide he had expelled.”
He was buried under a heap of small snow blocks, said Chovin. “Cracks let the air through. That’s why he held out for 1 hour 3 minutes under the snow. In theory, 15 minutes is the maximum survival time.”
“He was also very lucky not to have been injured during his fall. He could have hit rocks or been crushed by the forces.”
According to the BBC, the boy was French, but attends school in London.
The boy will be monitored at a local hospital for signs of necrosis due to exposure to freezing temperatures in the snow.