Pinecrest, California (KOVR) — A skilled snowboarder is alive and telling his story after falling at least 20 feet, landing head-first into a deep part of snow last week.
Justin Calbert describes last Thursday when he went up chair three at Dodge Ridge Resort in Pinecrest in a simple yet horrifying way: “I literally call it the day that I died,” Calbert said.
Slopes that he and his wife Casey know well that quickly turned into a near cold and powdery grave. Other skiers and snowboarders were watching as he fell at least 20 feet from a well-known jump; landing head-first into the snowbank below.
“There was a time that I did not have a pulse. I wasn’t breathing. So, I was clinically dead a handful minutes before they resuscitated me,” Calbert said.
One of those people was Modesto Fire Department engineer Jerad Heinrich.
“What was going through my mind was he needed help and he needed help fast,” Heinrich said.
Heinrich and his brother-in-law saw the whole thing happen and called for other skiers to help until they could get off of the chair lift and get down to Calbert.
He said that he notified ski patrol as well who was aware of the situation and had called for more people. When the two got down to Calbert, a teenager had begun digging into the snow to dig the trapped snowboarder out and jumped in to help him.
The group worked tirelessly and eventually got Calbert out.
“He was not breathing. He was unconscious and he was definitely lifeless,” Heinrich said.
Heinrich began doing CPR on Calbert. He would then check his airway asking and instructing the teen to do the chest compressions. After Heinrich cleared Calbert’s airway, he took over full CPR duties again.
Ski patrol arrived and the group still helped until Calbert was on the sled. Heinrich called it a great group effort to save the man they didn’t know.
“As soon as he started breathing normally, we took a second, the ski patrol, Ben and I high-fived real quick because we just possibly got him back,” Heinrich said.
“I’m extremely lucky. I mean all of the right people were in the right place at the right time,” Calbert said.
Calbert was rushed to Doctors Medical Center in Modesto for treatment, which included a medically induced coma at one point.
“It wasn’t Justin’s time. It was God’s plan that Justin would live that day,” Heinrich said.
Calbert says he now miraculously has a clean bill of health; all thanks to a different kind of snow angels.
“I’m forever in their debt. They were just amazing,” Calbert said.
“It was truly a blessing and a miracle that they got to him so quickly,” Casey Calbert said.
Calbert has some advice for anyone hitting the mountain no matter how skilled you are: “Ski with a buddy, be very aware of the conditions.”
Calbert and his wife usually hit the slopes together at the same time. But, she had an equipment issue that day and had to go to the ski shop to get some repairs done.
Heinrich said he would also like to dedicate their efforts to Chief Dave Boyd, a mentor of Heinrich’s who passed away suddenly last weekend.
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