2 New Jersey Survivors Heading Home From Mount Everest Avalanche
A Brick family is awaiting the return of their oldest daughter, who was hiking in Nepal when a powerful earthquake devastated the country on Saturday.
Denise Reed tells the Asbury Park Press her daughter Vanessa Reed, 34, was hiking in the Sagarmantha National Park in Namche with her boyfriend Ron Casalnova as part of a two-week vacation when the quake struck.
Friends and family were gathered at the Brick home Denise and Vanessa share when a text came through from Vanessa on Saturday night with the news that she and Casalnova, a South Jersey resident, were safe. "I saw her name, and I'm looking at it. It kind of took a minute to register that this is from her," Denise told the Press. "We all just burst into tears crying."
Vanessa texted that she and Casalnova had made it to a base camp where there was no electricity or internet with a lot a damage in the area. The next challenge for the couple is to get out of Nepal. While they are getting relief kits from Mercy Corps, the American Embassy told Denise that rescue helicopters are not flying to Namche because of heavy rain and landslides. They’d have to get to Lulka in order to catch a helicopter flight.
Another New Jersey resident, Mariusz Malkowski of Mendham, is home after being credited with helping to rescue others trapped by the avalanche.
Mariusz Małkowski, 40, was on the mountain as part of the Fibaro Mt. Everest Challenge, demonstrating the company's Z-Wave remote device in extreme conditions. Malkowski was to use the device to connect with his home from the 29,000 foot summit in May.
According to Fibaro's website he landed at Newark Liberty International Airport early on Tuesday.
Malkowski, who has climbed world-class mountains on four continents, was uninjured and above the area destroyed by the avalanche Saturday. According to posts on the Fibaro Facebook page, he joined rescue efforts to bring people down the mountain. Among those he helped were a man from Brooklyn and an unidentified American female who did not survive after being brought to medical help, according to ABC 7.
A New Jersey woman, Marisa Eve Girawong of Edison was working as a base camp doctor for a Madison Mountaineering expedition and died because of the avalanche.
In the hours after the avalanche, Małkowski said poor conditions, with steady snow, hampered efforts to reach the injured.
"There are many climbers who suffered from the avalanche and since Mariusz is OK he joined the rescue team," wrote Fibaro in a Saturday Facebook post.
On Monday, a helicopter from Shree Airlines flew Małkowski and other survivors to Katmandu for a flight to New Delhi that had been arranged by the Polish government. He arrived in India early Monday and arrived in Newark on Tuesday.
Malkowski called the ordeal a terrifying experience.
"Out of 18 tents that we had in our part of the camp, eight of them were damaged, or were just torn off the mountain. You just hope that it passes by and you hope for survival," he said.
He said after he realized he was not badly hurt, he saw several people who had died in the disaster as well as many who were badly injured.
"We brought a number of people to the doctor with different injuries, everything from broken limbs to internal bleeding to head trauma," he said. "You feel powerless, you know, the only thing you can do is just crouch down and wait for it to pass by, that’s really the feeling."
The Jersey man said as the avalanche tumbled toward him, he believed he was going to die.
"I mean you’re almost suffocating for the whole duration because of the wind and the snow getting into it," he said, adding that he's relieved to be back in the Garden State.
"Thirty hours ago I was in the base camp and now I’m here in New Jersey, I’m just grateful I’m back."
Helicopters continue to crisscross the skies above the mountains of Nepal's Gorkha district, near the epicenter of the weekend earthquake, ferrying the injured to clinics, and taking emergency supplies back to remote villages devastated by the quake. The death toll across the region stands at more than 4,400 people.
Dan Alexander and David Matthau contributed to this report.