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A group of expert back-country skiers were making their way through a foot-and-a half of fresh snow when they were struck by an avalanche near a popular Washington ski resort. Several were able to free themselves and immediately rushed to dig out the others.

An avalanche beacon, shovel and probe are among the mandatory rescue items for those heading into the backcountry. The beacon is a rescue device that allows rescuers to locate the signal of a victim if buried. Although the skiers that were able to free themselves reached the buried skiers and performed CPR, three men did not survive.

A fourth skier believes she was saved by her avalanche safety device. The woman said that she immediately deployed the airbag from her backpack, crediting it with saving her life. “I was completely buried except for my head and hands" after coming to a rest, she said.

Each year, avalanches claim more than 150 lives worldwide; thousands more are caught in avalanches, partly buried or injured. If caught in an avalanche, a skier can suffocate if buried by snow. Proper equipment can be a critical factor in rescue efforts.

The avalanche safety device is like an air bag or flotation vest. The bag and a compressed air container are housed in a backpack. The skier pulls on a strap to remove the bag which is inflated by the compressed air. This keeps the skier close to the surface in the event of an avalanche. The safety device costs $700 – $1,000. Costly? Consider the price of a good pair of skis. Consider the price of your life.

Preventing or minimizing burial depth is the key to reducing avalanche fatalities, but the avalanche bags are no substitute for proper back-country and avalanche training. Learning the proper technique of locating trapped victims with a beacon is crucial; it takes time and skill.

Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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