MT. PLEASANT —Rain poured down on Doug Smith just before midnight as he stood on a helicopter pad and watched as medical crews took his son to the emergency room for injuries he'd suffered in an avalanche hours before.

A nurse stopped the crew, walked to Smith and invited him to have a moment with his son.

"I whispered in his ear and told him that I loved him and let him know his dad was there and gave him a kiss," Smith said. "That made all the difference in the world. It was good to have that moment."

The condition of his 26-year-old son, Garrett Smith, deteriorated shortly after and he died.

Moments before Saturday's avalanche, the outdoor enthusiast had dug a hole with his friend, Mark Greenwood, to determine if there were weak layers in the snowpack that would render the slope unsafe for passage by the group of seven backcountry skiers.

They had just decided it was unsafe and were hiking back to a large horseshoe ridge below Clayton Peak when an overhanging edge of snow the size of a small vehicle broke from the mountainside above and crashed into the slope. Greenwood and Garrett Smith tried to scramble up but a fracture line the width of the avalanche spread across the slope and they were quickly swept away by a wall of snow.

"I was just trying to swim and stay on top and everything just goes black," Greenwood said, ""You don’t really have a lot of time to react."

He said he remembers the feeling of freefalling over a couple cliffs before the snow began to slow and settle.

"I just tried to scramble to the surface before everything solidified," Greenwood said.

Right as it solidified, he punched his right arm through, guessing which way was up.

"Once it solidified I couldn't move," Greenwood said. "It was like being in concrete."

He guessed right and dug out a hole in front of his face. His nose and mouth were full of packed snow. He breathed heavily until the snow melted out. Garrett Smith was buried upside down a short distance away.

Patrick "Pitt" Grewe had also ridden the length of the slide path but only his knees were buried.

"It was a force that can't be matched," Grewe said. "I can't even describe what it is like. All I knew is that I wasn't under the snow fully and that I could still take a breath."

Grewe immediately began searching for his friends.

"You're instincts and your survival instincts click in and there's only one thing that you're focused on and that is trying to save everyone involved," Grewe said. "Your fatigue or your shock or anything else that’s going on in your brain — is second to the first priority, which is to get your friends safe and out of danger.

Dustin Butcher found Greenwood first and with the aid of Greenwood's wife, McCall, began digging him out. They shut off Mark Greenwoods beacon and ran across the debris to find Garrett Smith.

"The debris is really easy to walk over because it's super solid," Butcher said.

They saw a bit of his bright orange boot sticking out from the snow and dug as quickly as they could to get his face exposed. His wife, Molly Smith, helped dig. He had been buried 20-30 minutes and wasn't breathing but after an hour of CPR from Mark Greenwood and McCall Greenwood, he started breathing again.

"He saved my life on a few occasions," said Mark Greenwood, Garrett Smith's friend for eight years. "I was trying to return the favor."

His throat was swollen and sore from the snow that had compacted in his throat and wasn't getting much air as he performed CPR on Garrett Smith.

Mark Greenwood was getting hypothermic, exhausted and not completing sentences before the first rescuer arrived with flares and started a fire. His wife encouraged him to stay awake.

"It was probably the best thing she could have done," Mark Greenwood said. "I don't know I would have woken up had I gone asleep."

Meanwhile, Molly Smith and Butcher skied to Butcher's vehicle in a canyon some 15 miles away to ensure rescuers were on their way.

About four hours after the avalanche, rescuers manually hoisted Garrett Smith up the mountain in a rescue basket.

"This was probably the most challenging rescue that I have ever been on," said Kerry Nielson, one of the 40 volunteers with the Sanpete County Search and Rescue team.

On Monday evening, Garrett Smith's family learned that his liver, kidneys, pancreas and heart valves would be donated to patients. His lungs were donated for medical research.

"I think (the donations) has helped a lot of people have a better feeling about things and how things ended up," Doug Smith said.

Since Garrett's death, Doug Smith has received many emails of tribute from South America, where his son taught emergency responders repelling techniques, to Madrid Spain, where his son served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

View Comments

"It's been fun as a parent to see how many people you didn't realize that he'd touched," he said. "So many of them have sent the most gratifying emails about the relationship and the experience that they had with him. It makes you happy and proud to see that."

Mark Greenwood paid tribute to his friend Tuesday afternoon.

"Just cause he died doesn't mean he's gone," he said. "There's so many people in the world that benefited from him being around. He'll always be here."

E-mail: sgarn@desnews.com

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.