26 Jul 2009

Avalanche survivors to return home

8:30 am on 26 July 2009

A Melbourne real estate agent and his son will return home from New Zealand on Sunday after they survived being buried in a fatal avalanche.

John Castran, 53, and his Angus, 23, were heli-skiing on Friday afternoon with two guides and another man in the Southern Alps near the town of Methven, when they triggered an avalanche.

The third man, Llyndon Riethmuller, 61,could not be revived by the two guides who dug him out of about two metres of snow.

John Castran says he only met Mr Riethmuller that morning: "The chap that lost his life yesterday, the run before he said to me 'this is as close to heaven as I'll ever get,'" he said on Saturday.

Mr Castran told the ABC he feared he was going to die as he lay covered in about two metres of snow.

"I couldn't move my hands, I couldn't move my legs, I absolutely just couldn't move," he said.

"I had snow up my mouth and managed to get it out of my mouth and use my tongue to get it out of my nostrils, and I thought 'I've just got to relax, try and put myself in another place.'"

Mr Castran believes years of skiing and watching documentaries on avalanches are what saved him.

An avalanche warning had been issued for the area.