Think About This When Heading Into the Backcountry
by Bob Dempsey, San Miguel County Coroner
Feb 05, 2010 | 756 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Fortunately, last Tuesday's Bear Creek avalanche did not take any lives. I hope we never repeat 1987 to 1989 when we had six avalanche deaths, another in 1992 and sporadic ones since then. Unfortunately, we will see more if not all necessary precautions are taken.

The pain of asphyxiation from being buried in snow must be excruciating, so much so that one of our fatalities forced his breathing so hard that he hemorrhaged the surfaces of his lungs and heart. What causes this agony is not the lack of oxygen, but rather the build-up of carbon dioxide (CO2). As it increases, so does the pain and agony. On the other hand, a low-level build-up of CO2 cleverly keeps one breathing automatically, even while sleeping, or tells a newborn to take that first breath.

If one wants a painless death, you must fool the body. This can be done by breathing exhaust, or carbon monoxide, from a combustion engine, like an automobile or gas engine. When you breathe carbon monoxide, your body accepts it as oxygen, and you continue breathing, all the while exhaling CO2. No CO2, no pain. Thus, you die peacefully from the poison.

Conclusion: before taking unnecessary chances in the back county, think about the excruciating pain of asphyxiation and worse, how it will affect your mother when I call her.
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