Missoula Avalanche Survivor to be Honored - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Missoula Avalanche Survivor to be Honored

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 It's been four months since an urban avalanche swept down Mount Jumbo in Missoula and buried three people. For the first time, we are hearing from Fred Allendorf, the man who lost his home and his wife in the slide. Allendorf is a noted conservation scientist. Next week he is being honored for his work in the field. It's an event that he kept his sights on as he worked for months to recover from the injuries he sustained in the avalanche.  

"My wife and I were just sitting here. Literally I was just sitting in a chair," Allendorf says of the day the avalanche hit. "We were talking about whether we wanted to go out to dinner or not because it was snowing so hard and the next thing I know I was covered in the house. I heard my wife scream twice and that was it."

Fred and his wife Michel Colville were swept up in the unthinkable, an urban avalanche that left their home in shards.

"I remember thinking I was going to suffocate, freeze to death, or they were going to find me," Allendorf said.

Crews were able to pull him and his wife from the rubble, but Michel died from injuries she sustained in the slide. He estimates they were under the snow for two hours. Fred, who was pinned under a brick fireplace, had 17 broken ribs, a sternum fracture, a broken foot and three broken vertebrae.

"One broken rib is really painful, 17 broken ribs are really painful," he said.

Weeks after the avalanche, Fred was released from the hospital and has been recovering from those injuries with family in Wisconsin. He made it back to Missoula last week in advance of a conference where he is being recognized for his decades of work as a conservation biologist.

"I was one of the first to use genetics to deal with problems in conservation," Allendorf said. He's helped FWP with many endangered species from grizzly bears to cutthroat trout.

As a sign of his recovery, Allendorf is able to make his way around town on his bicycle and has enjoyed several hiking trips in the last month. As Fred points out, bones can heal but he will never recover everything that avalanche took from him.

"The physical stuff isn't that big of a deal," he said. "Losing my wife and my house (is the worst part)."

Allendorf is staying with friends right now. He says he's not sure if he will rebuild. He loves his property, but he cannot imagine living there again, especially without his wife by his side.


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