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Boy buried by avalanche tried to bite his way out


  • Rescuers dug at the scene of an avalanche in Missoula's Rattlesnake Valley on Feb. 28. The avalanche roared into a residential neighborhood and destroyed a house, but three people were found alive amid the snow and wreckage, police said. (AP Photo/The Missoulian, Tom Bauer)
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NEW YORK » An 8-year-old western Montana boy who spent about an hour buried in the snow after a deadly avalanche roared into his backyard says he tried to "lick and bite" his way out before becoming tired and falling asleep.

Phoenix Scoles-Coburn, of Missoula, told "Today" show host Matt Lauer on Friday that he doesn’t remember the moment the Feb. 28 snow slide hit him. He was playing outside with his 10-year-old sister, Coral, when they heard a noise.

"I looked back, and the tree was wobbling so I ran, and the next thing I knew I was in the snow," the boy said.

Phoenix said he had a bit of an air pocket.

"I tried to lick and like bite my way out because I was too close together to get my hands out," he said. "Then I got so tired, I just fell asleep."

Phoenix’s mother, Erin Scoles, said the avalanche sounded like an "airplane crashing in my ears."

"I saw the avalanche hit them, and then I couldn’t see anything, and then I ran out the door and seriously, within 10 seconds, there was probably a dozen people with shovels," she told Lauer. "Then a minute later, there were 50 people. It was amazing."

Coral said she was able to quickly get herself out of the snow and ran to her mother, who was yelling for her.

Phoenix suffered a laceration to his spleen and was hospitalized for two days.

The avalanche also buried a couple when it hit and destroyed their house in a residential area at the base of Mount Jumbo. Michel Colville and her husband, retired University of Montana professor Fred Allendorf, also eventually were rescued and hospitalized.

Colville died of her injuries two days later. Allendorf remained hospitalized.

Colville’s daughter, Charis Patterson, told KTMF-TV in Missoula that her stepfather suffered severe injuries including 17 broken ribs, a fractured sternum, a fractured foot and three fractured vertebrae in his lower back.

Authorities believe the avalanche was triggered by a snowboarder.

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