A Lake Tahoe, Calif., woman narrowly escaped death last week after she became trapped upside down in the snow for half an hour with diminishing amounts of oxygen while her husband struggled in vain to free her.
The dramatic rescue of Kristin Jacobsen was caught on camera after she accidentally fell into a creek bed while skiing with her husband Eric at the Sierra at Tahoe resort. Kristin flipped head over heels into the powder while the two were heading down a black diamond trail with fresh powder. The couple regularly hit the slopes there and say they know that mountain quite well.
"Just as Kristin was coming up behind my right, I noticed a small divot in the snow. Just as I'm saying the words, 'don't go there!' Kristin just literally disappeared," Eric Jacobsen said.
Kristin told ABC News that her feet came up and her head went down immediately, and then she began to sink. She said that her initial thought was that it might be an avalanche.
From the surface, all that could be seen was the bottoms of her skis.
"Snow packs in around you like cement. So it was silent, I couldn't hear a thing," Kristin said. "I couldn't hear Eric screaming."
Eric told ABC News that all he was able to do was dive in and try to dig his wife out. But the more he dug, the more she sank. Soon the snow started to swallow him too, and he became stuck up to my waist, in a situation he described as "just helpless." But his wife's quick thinking may have helped save her life.
"I knew I needed to make an air pocket, but I couldn't move my arms to create a pocket. I tried to rock my head back and forth a little bit but I was able to make maybe an inch or two of air, and I knew it wasn't going to last for very long," Kristin said. "It wasn't like being buried underground. It was a sea of white. When I started to lose consciousness I remember trickles over my eyes, it might have been tears."
Luckily, Zach McAllister and Merick Rickman from the mountain's ski patrol were nearby.
"I just happened to be riding up the lift and saw her husband digging. I don't know [how long] she was in the hole before I saw her husband, but he said that it took us approximately 10 minutes to get there," McAllister told ABC News.
It took the ski patrol 20 minutes more to dig Kristin out as she was buried head first in the snow.
"She was completely unconscious," McAllister said. "She was completely cyanotic, which means she was blue all over. When I got down there I just opened her airway and started to clear her chest of snow. Doing so she spontaneously started breathing on her own.
"We were possibly minutes away from not seeing her alive again," he added.
Kristin said that after the ordeal was over, "we just held each other and cried."
McAllister and Rickman said that the couple was very lucky to have survived the incident, and that they did everything right. The couple says they are thankful that the ski patrol showed up in time.
"If they literally hadn't arrived exactly when they did it would be a very different story," Kristin said.