VMI student helps save lives after avalanche in the Swiss Alps

It's a rescue he's sure to never forget.

LEXINGTON, Va. – Even though the holiday season is behind us, 10 News learned about a Christmas miracle.

A VMI student was among four young men out skiing in the Swiss Alps during winter break when they witnessed an avalanche.

Second-year VMI student Erik Gottmann was enjoying Christmastime with his family in the Swiss Alps at the time.

“I’ve never seen anything like that in my life,” Gottmann said.

The unimaginable happened in the snow on Christmas Day.

Gottmann, his brothers, and a family friend were on a boys’ outing when an avalanche buried nearly a dozen people on the slopes.

Gottmann and his family leaped into action to do what they could to help.

The four young men skied to the location and saw about a dozen people scattered.

“One of them was laying horizontally in the snow buried up to his neck, so he was the first person we thought we should dig this guy out of the snow, make sure he’s at least alive.”

The boys still helped people after rescue teams arrived. Surprisingly, cell video helped first responders locate and save everyone trapped in the snow.

“It felt good knowing that there was something we could do to try and dig people out of the snow to help and it was influential in the saving effort,” Gottman said. “When we got back to the town we stayed in a town called Stuben, they ranged the church bells to signify that everyone survived the avalanche and everyone was okay.”

About the Author:

Duke Carter returned to 10 News in January 2022.