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After the avalanche: The lasting impact of a N.H. rescue attempt

 Looking up the path of the avalanche that buried Nick Benedix on April 11, 2019.
Frank Carus, courtesy of the Mt. Washington Avalanche Center
Looking up Raymond's Cataract at the path of the 2019 avalanche that buried Nick Benedix.

How do wilderness EMTs cope when a rescue goes wrong?

On a bluebird day in April of 2019, Snow Ranger Frank Carus set out to investigate a reported avalanche in the backcountry of Mount Washington. He found a lone skier named Nick Benedix buried several feet under the snow. He was severely hypothermic, but alive.

 Jeff Fongemie points at Raymond's Cataract on a topographical map in the Pinkham Notch Visitor's Center
Jessica Hunt
Jeff Fongemie points at Raymond's Cataract on a topographical map in the Pinkham Notch Visitor's Center

What happened next was an attempted rescue that people in Northern New England are still learning from.

Wilderness EMTs can work for decades in the field and never encounter this particular situation. So what happens when a rescue goes wrong? And how do first responders cope when an opportunity to save someone’s life slips through their fingers?

Featuring:  Denise Butler, Frank Carus, Jeff Fongemie, Nicholas Weinberg


Read the Mount Washington Avalanche Center’sfinal report on Nick Benedix’s death.

Learn more about avalanche safety here.

Read the Wilderness Medical Society Journal article about this incident here.

 Courtesy MWAC
Courtesy MWAC

Jessica previously worked as a producer for NHPR's The Exchange, wedging in as many discussions as possible about the environment, wildlife, and the outdoors. You can hear her occasionally as a substitute host on NHPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

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