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‘Stars were aligned’ as pair rescue girl on Aspen Mountain

Katie Redding
kredding@aspentimes.com
Aspen CO Colorado
Contributed photoA ski patroller attends to Hannah Cohen-Fuentes after she was found in a tree well on Aspen Mountain in Colorado last week.
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ASPEN, Colorado ” When Nick Marmureanu set off last week to ski the trees on Aspen Mountain’s Nose of Bell run with his father, he was just looking for fresh powder.

Instead, he found a 15-year-old girl, unconscious and nearly buried in the snow.

The girl was Hannah Cohen-Fuentes, of Washington, D.C., a high school student full of jokes and enthusiasm, but little memory of the event.

She had been snowboarding with her brother and sister when the three became separated.

“I guess I got excited that day,” said Hannah, speaking about the incident on Tuesday, a week after the accident. An avid snowboarder, she pointed out that 18 inches of powder had fallen the night before.

Her siblings assumed Hannah had simply gone on ahead, said Hannah’s father.

Instead, she fell, hit her head, and nearly buried herself in a tree well.

Nick, 15, and his father, cardiothoracic surgeon Alexander Marmureanu, 46, of Beverly Hills, said finding Hannah in the snow was a matter of luck.

Hannah’s father, Thomas Cohen, agreed.

“It was just incredibly fortunate that the surgeon found her,” he said. “He may have saved her life.”

“It was kind of like a Christmas miracle,” said Hannah, noting that she was released from the hospital on Christmas Day. “I’m Jewish, but who’s keeping track?”

Skiing through the stormy weather, Nick was slightly ahead of his father and a family acquaintance when he encountered a rut between two trees. As he skied around the rut, he saw the edge of something purple sticking out of the snow. He radioed to his father that he was going to stop and investigate what he had found.

Soon Nick realized the purple object was a snowboard. Figuring that someone must be attached to the snowboard, he investigated further and found Hannah, unconscious. She was hard to spot in part because she was dressed entirely in white ” but largely because she was nearly completely buried in a tree well.

Nick radioed his father to tell him that there was a person submerged in the snow, and then he knelt down to help her.

Meanwhile, his father realized he was only about 5 feet away. But from the other side of a tree, he hadn’t seen or heard the girl at all, he said, emphasizing how narrowly the two skiers almost missed her.

Nick said he initially found Hannah unresponsive. But after he began to dig her out and remove her mask and goggles, she began mumbling and moving her hands.

Nick took off her snowboard so she could move her legs. But she was buried so deep in the snow that she couldn’t move, said Nick, who continued to dig her out, with the help of his father.

As she lay there, she became more coherent, the father and son recalled. She was able to remember her name and her parents’ names. And she explained that she had been snowboarding with her sister and brother before they became separated. She even remembered her sister’s phone number.

Alexander immediately called Hannah’s sister, who had joined up with Hannah’s father. Still unaware of how serious the accident had been, Thomas Cohen said he sent his other three children ahead to meet their mother while he skied down to await Hannah.

Meanwhile, Nick and Alexander tried to contact ski patrol in several ways: asking Hannah’s family to call, asking a nearby ski instructor to go for help, and radioing in themselves.

Soon, Nick heard ski patrol yelling “help, help, help.” He and his father yelled back, and Nick skied into the open to bring ski patrol to the girl.

“The doctor from California was amazing,” Hannah’s father said. “He stayed the whole time with Hannah. He wanted to make sure she would be treated for a concussion.”

Ski patrol efficiently stabilized the girl, put her in a toboggan, and skied her down.

“Ski patrol did such a good job,” Alexander said.

Hannah was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, where she also received “great treatment,” according to her father.

While she’s still a little shaken from the incident, her father said, all signs are that she’s going to make a full recovery.

Hannah said the experience has taught her a few lessons. Most importantly, wear a helmet.

“I don’t even know what would have happened if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet,” she said.

And it’s also helped her come to a few end-of-year reflections about the nature of skiing ” and life.

“You have to be careful,” she said. “You’re not always safe.”

But upon reflection, she retracted that statement in lieu of another: “To a certain extent, there’s always danger lurking in the woods,” she said. “You have to be a little adventurous ” and hope you get lucky.”

Luck, it seems, was the theme of the day.

“We didn’t do much. We got lucky that we found her,” said Alexander, who speculated that things might have turned out differently if Hannah had waited in the snow for a rescue effort to find her. “It could be that the stars were aligned.”

kredding@aspentimes.com


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