Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rescued Man Felt Wife Slip Away in Landslide

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rescued Man Felt Wife Slip Away in Landslide

Article excerpt

Stuart and Sally Diver had just gone to bed Wednesday night when a landslide ripped through their ski chalet. Suddenly, Stuart found himself trapped under tons of debris. He held tightly to his wife.

The couple was entombed in a space between concrete slabs, with little room to move. Underground water and mud were filling the cavity.

The fit ski instructor tried desperately to hold his wife's head above water. But Sally was pinned on a mattress next to him by something heavy.

"She was slipping out of his grip. He hung on desperately . . . But then there was another sudden rush of mud and water and she was swept out of his arms," said Bruce Tarrant, a rescue helicopter spokesman. "He knows he lost his wife in that hellhole."

Sixty-five hours later, rescuers finally reached the 30-year-old Diver - the only known survivor of the landslide that buried 20 people in two ski lodges at Thredbo Alpine Village.

When the rescuers brought Diver to the surface, the ski instructor got his first breath of fresh air and looked up at the twilight settling on the Snowy Mountains.

"That sky is fantastic!" he told emergency workers.

From a hospital bed in Canberra on Sunday, Diver made his first public comments since his rescue, with his parents, Annette and Steve, by his side.

"I'd just like to thank everyone who was involved in my rescue . . . and all the people who prayed for me and gave me so much support over the last couple of days," Diver said in a hoarse voice.

"It's been overwhelming, and I don't think I'd have made it through without the involvement of all those people."

Diver was moved out of intensive care, and frostbite on some toes of his left foot remained the most serious physical problem. Doctors said he might be able to leave the hospital within days.

Late Sunday, police revised the number of bodies found from nine to eight. They did not offer an explanation. The victims' identities have not been released.

Of the 20 caught in the slide, 17 were Australians, two were Americans and one was a New Zealander. The Americans were identified by the national newspaper The Australian as Mim and Mike Sodergren, 41 and 46, respectively, of Tahoe City, Calif.

Efforts are now focused on bedrooms and a kitchen discovered in the rubble at the popular ski resort in New South Wales, about 185 miles south of Sydney.

Rescuers, including Diver's brother, had almost given up hope of finding anyone alive early Saturday morning as they struggled with cutting tools that kept breaking in the subfreezing temperature. Then firefighter Steve Hirst said he heard an "uncommon" noise in the lull.

"I lay on my stomach and made contact," he said. "I yelled, `Rescue team working overhead, can anyone hear me?' There was a murmur."

Diver thought he was dreaming at first, then realized the voices were real. …

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