Favorite stories of 2019: Local skiers, snowboarders resuscitate Ohio man on Vail Mountain
The story behind the story
Editor’s note: For the Vail Daily’s year in review, reporters were tasked with telling the story behind their favorite story of the year. This is the first part in a series.
Every now and then, someone comes into our newsroom with a story idea — some worthy of investigating and others not so much. Thankfully, I was one of the few people in the newsroom when a woman from Vail Dermatology stopped by in early January to tip us off about her bosses helping save a man’s life on Vail Mountain.
“Ohio man thankful to be alive after bystanders resuscitate him on Vail Mountain” is a story about humans looking out for other humans — and serves as a reminder of the importance of CPR certification.
On Saturday, Jan. 18, Michael Laush was enjoying a powder day at Vail with a friend. Both were celebrating their 40th birthdays. On that day, Laush was discovered by skiers and snowboarders upside-down behind a snow-blown rock near Chair 21.
Reporting for the story includes accounts from both Laush and Tom and Karen Nern, who were among the first on the scene and work for Vail Dermatology.
Vail reported an 11-inch powder day that morning, with 20 inches of new snow in the previous three days. Laush, at 6 feet, 6 inches tall and 270 pounds, was found by bystanders upside down, with his skiing partner already ahead of him.
“When I got there, there were two ski boots sticking out of the snow,” Tom Nern said in January.
“It probably took six or seven minutes to get him out,” Karen Nern said.
Laush wasn’t breathing, had no pulse and was “purple,” Tom Nern said. Luckily, the bystanders were CPR certified.
“He started coming back,” Karen said after three sets of compressions.
“I could feel his pulse just pounding back into his chest.”
The Nerns were not alone in rushing to Laush’s rescue. Vail Ski Patrol is credited for acting swiftly, and retired doctor Beth McCrann is another one of the bystanders identified in the story.
There’s a woman credited by the Nerns in the story as the first person there who saw Laush fall and immediately rushed to the scene. In the heat of the moment, they weren’t able to exchange information and she was only identified as a woman “in black and white, just screaming for help.” After publishing the story, she was later identified as Karen Colton.
The story also includes Laush’s side.
“I was dead. No doubt about it,” he said. “These people don’t know me and they saved my life.”
With multiple accounts and a happy ending, this story was a pleasure to track down and tell. Laush plans to return this winter for a reunion with his heroes, which might require a follow-up story. In the meantime, check up on your CPR certification, and visit http://www.startinghearts.org for more information on free CPR and DEFIB training and access programs.
Wolves were a problem for ranchers when Kip Gates’ great-great-grandfather homesteaded in the area. He doesn’t want the problem to return.