Snow and Avalanche Center Avalanche News - 2005

Recco Responsible for Recovery in German Backcountry

Avalanche Rescue System Finds Buried Snowshoer Alive
by Dan Kostrzewski, January 10th, 2006

HINTERSTEIN, GERMANY (Jan 11. 2006) – On New Year's Eve, a 29-year old German woman who was caught in an avalanche and trapped under 1.5 meters of snow was pinpointed with the RECCO avalanche rescue system and recovered alive after being completely buried for 45 minutes. The woman and her partner had been snowshoeing to a backcountry cabin when the slide hit, swept her 150 meters downhill and trapped her under 1.5 meters of debris in a narrow, hard-to-reach gully. The backcountry traveler caught in the slide was not wearing a transceiver even though the avalanche danger in the surrounding mountains was rated considerable on the international scale that day.

Luckily her partner was not caught and placed a cell phone call to police, who then deployed Mountain Rescue of Hinterstein. Two rescuers equipped with an avalanche dog and a RECCO detector were immediately transported to the accident scene by helicopter, ahead of a rapidly approaching storm and descending darkness. After a 15-minute search, the buried woman was located with the RECCO detector, pinpointed with probes and subsequently dug out alive and conscious. Three hours after the slide, she was transported by military rescue helicopter to a nearby hospital where she has since recovered from the ordeal.

Even though RECCO has been globally adopted by ski resorts and is utilized often as a method of off-piste avalanche rescue, this successful recovery occurred far removed from the nearest ski slope. A convergence of factors led to the successful utilization of this technology in the backcountry, including cell phone coverage in the incident area, a rapid air-based rescue response and a buried victim who was detectable by the avalanche rescue system, which is able to pinpoint RECCO reflectors integrated into commercially available ski wear, boots and protection gear.

About RECCO Avalanche Rescue System

RECCO is an avalanche rescue system utilized by 440 organizations worldwide to assist in the efficient location of burials. RECCO enables rapid directional pinpointing of a victim’s precise location using harmonic radar. The two-part system consists of a RECCO detector used by organized rescue groups, and RECCO reflectors that are integrated into commercially available products. Although similar in search procedure to transceivers, the RECCO system is not intended for companion rescue and works as a complement to transceiver use in the backcountry.

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