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Snowboarder found alive

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By Carol A. Clark

Lost 26 hours in frigid cold and blowing snow on Pajarito Mountain, snowboarder Sebastian Gomez was spotted at 6:30 p.m. Monday by infrared equipment from a National Guard Black Hawk helicopter.

 

The 19-year-old from Albuquerque spent the night at Los Alamos Medical Center where he was treated for exposure and is expected to be released today.

 

“I can’t tell you how many times in my career a grave situation has turned out to be the best news of the year,” said Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy after visiting Gomez in the hospital Monday evening.

 

Gomez was snowboarding with two other boys Sunday when one of them began to feel ill and went to rest in their car at the ski hill, State Police spokesman Peter Olson said.

 

About 4 p.m., Gomez and Greg Blea finished their last run of the day and were snowboarding back to their car. Blea told police he was in the lead and after arriving at the car, looked around and realized Gomez was no where to be seen.

 

He and the other friend waited awhile, then contacted the ski patrol who searched with dog teams for Gomez.

 

At 11 p.m., the ski patrol alerted state police who launched a search and rescue mission. Experts from Los Alamos, Santa Fe and the surrounding area searched through the night and all day Monday.

 

“These people are absolute heroes,” Torpy said. “I went up to the ski hill three times throughout the day to monitor the situation and can tell you the dedication of these volunteers to finding that young man is truly commendable.”

 

Gomez built a shelter, which helped him survive the freezing temperatures. Olson explained that the teen had gotten outside the ski area’s boundary and was located 180 degrees from where the search was mounted.

 

He was rescued in Pajarito Canyon on the back side of the Pajarito Ski area.

 

Gomez is originally from Colombia. He lives in Albuquerque and is a full-time student at Central New Mexico Community College.

 

His mother arrived at the ski hill at about midnight Sunday and spent the night and entire next day there waiting for her son to be found. Torpy met with her at the hospital.

 

“She was so appreciative to the volunteers for finding her son,” he said. “She told me, ‘This is such a wonderful country - we’re going to move here’.”