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Papers of the Week

2022 Dec 14

Wilderness Environ Med

Survival in a Collapsed Stable for 37 Days After Avalanche Burial in 1755.


Lechner R, Brugger H, Paal P, Hüfner K, Agazzi G, Butler F, Gordon L, Darocha T, Zafren K
Wilderness Environ Med. 2022 Dec 14.
PMID: 36526516.


In 1755 in Bergemoletto, Italy, an avalanche buried 4 people (2 women, a girl, and a boy) and several animals in a stable. After 37 d in a pitch-dark confined space, 3 of the 4 people were rescued alive. The 3 survivors had only goat milk, a few chestnuts, a few kg of raw kid meat, and meltwater for nutrition. We describe the longest-known survival in an avalanche burial and discuss the medical and psychological problems of the survivors. The boy died. When they were extricated, all 3 survivors were exhausted, cachectic, and unable to stand or walk. They were severely malnourished and were experiencing tingling, tremors, and weakness in the legs; constipation; changes in taste; and amenorrhea. One of the women had persistent eye problems and developed symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder. The survivors were given slow refeeding. It took from 1 to 6 wk before they could walk. We compare this case to other long-duration burials, especially mining accidents, and describe the rescue and patient care after long-duration burials. This case demonstrates that people can overcome extremely adverse conditions and survive.