Bittersweet Twitter Rescue

Snowboarder found thanks to Twitter and iPhone, but partner doesn't survive

On Monday afternoon, friends of Michelle Dewberry received a message on Twitter that was truly harrowing: “2 of our ski party been missing since 4pm. Conditions terrible. 1 guy found but trapped. 20 man team searching for other.”

Dewberry had been skiing at the Swiss Alps resort of Verbier with a group of entrepreneurs when two snowboarders in their party got separated in white-out blizzard conditions. The two men, Rob Williams and Jason Tavaria, were the 29-year-old co-founders of Dolphin Music in the UK and had gone missing after riding off-trail.

The blizzard prevented rescue teams from searching for the pair by helicopter so they took to the ground as friends pulled out their phones. In a flurry of “tweets,” the name for Twitter messages, which were spread across the Internet over 100 times, they were able to figure out the lost men’s phone numbers.

Joshua March, another in their group, sent out a reassuring tweet: “Phew. Just got GPS co-ordinates from the Dolphin guys iPhones (thank you Google Maps!) and passed on to ski patrol. Hopefully not long now.”

With the help of the coordinates sent from Tavaria via iPhone, rescue workers were able to find him, chilled to the bone but otherwise alright. Williams had gotten separated from him, however, and his body was found at the bottom of a 66-foot fall.

This tragedy is the first time that a social media outlet like Twitter has helped in a rescue situation saving someone’s life. It also reminds us, however, to always use caution when skiing in a blizzard and off-piste. Be careful out there and remember that an iPhone is no substitute for a rescue beacon when hiking or skiing off-trail.

–Morgan Keys

Swiss mountain rescue plays out over Twitter (AP)

Twitter feeds (ByteSurgery)

Image credit: Oliver Bruchez