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Rescuer Swept Away By Avalanche: 'I Didn't Expect To Survive'

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. - Jay Bowman has metal screws in his body, a plate in his arm, a broken leg and a head injury, but he's alive to tell his remarkable story of survival.

Jay Bowman
Jay Bowman (credit: CBS)

Despite his search team taking what they thought were every precaution possible during a rescue mission in Routt County last week, a snow slide wound up sweeping him down a hill.

"Frankly, I didn't expect to survive that," Bowman told CBS4.

Bowman and his Routt County Search & Rescue team were trying to locate a pair of unprepared backcountry users. It was dark, and with awareness of Colorado's current extreme avalanche danger in the backcountry, his team built a snow pit so they could check the different layers of the snow.

Bowman said it was "absolutely terrifying" when the snow he was standing on top of suddenly gave way.

"You've got a lot of things running through your head and it was like 'Here we go,'" he said.

Bowman's team members could only watch in horror as he tumbled down the mountainside.

"It was pretty crazy to see," said team member Harry Sandler.

headlamp headlight black diamond
(credit: CBS)

During the fall, the light from his headlamp was the only thing that gave him any indication of where he was.

"I immediately hit trees and that's what broke my arm right away," he said.

Bowman wound up dropping approximately 300 feet in the slide.

"It was game on to find Jay -- and luckily we did," Sandler said.

Harry Sandler
Harry Sandler (credit: CBS)

Bowman was able to ski out of the area afterwards and quickly got medical attention. He's now looking at about six to eight weeks of recovery time.

"I'm extremely lucky. So many different things went right and it allowed me to be here still," he said.

Jay Bowman
Jay Bowman (credit: CBS)

The two people who the search team was trying to rescue are okay. The team rescued them later that night.

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