The six US soldiers that were injured in an avalanche during a training exercise in Vermont were part of an advanced group conducting a safety appraisal of the slope and setting up a ropes course, Vermont National Guard officials said Friday.
Two soldiers remained hospitalized Friday in good and fair conditions while they recover from injuries suffered in the Wednesday avalanche. Guard officials would not describe the nature of the injuries or release their names.
Lt. Col. Matthew Brown, the commander of the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School, said the area has been used for winter training exercises since the early 1990s.
“This, to my knowledge, is the first time we have ever had a student involved in any incident like this,” Brown said during a Friday news conference at the mountain school headquarters in Jericho.
Brown said safety was always paramount when conducting operations in the mountains and that an investigation would be conducted into the incident.
Master Sgt. Tom Bevins, the senior non-commissioned officer who helped direct the rescue, said there have been avalanches in the area in the past, but the spot where the snow gave way was about 900 feet below where avalanches usually begin. “It’s very rare,” he said.
Six soldiers were carried down the gully by the snow, which traveled about 300 feet (275 meters). One of the soldiers managed to push his way to safety at the edge of the avalanche.
The other soldiers were immediately located and none were buried under the snow, Brown said. They were all evacuated by ambulance within two hours.