WILMINGTON — A helicopter ride to Burlington probably wasn’t on Charles St. Pierre’s mind when he went to Whiteface Mountain Monday morning.
But, he was glad to have a helicopter nearby when a workplace accident came close to ending his life.
“It was a little snow incident,” St. Pierre, 35, said from his hospital bed at the UVM Medical Center in Burlington. “It’s an accident that happens in snowmaking.”
But doctors didn’t think it was a little incident.
They didn’t know how he survived, let alone remained conscious after the end of compressor hose apparently broke off of a snow-making machine he was operating and struck him in the face, according to his sister Rashelle St. Pierre.
A spokesperson from the Olympic Regional Development Authority, which operates Whiteface Mountain, said the incident is under investigation.
The impact broke nearly every bone in his face, according to family, including his cheek bones, multiple breaks in his eye sockets and extensive damage to his airways and jaw.
He has already undergone surgery to repair his upper lip that the hose left dangling from his face and the bones in his palate, with another reconstructive surgery scheduled for Wednesday, Rashelle said.
Charles, a Marine Corps veteran who has worked four years at the mountain, was able to shut the machine off after being struck before a coworker later found him while investigating why the machine wasn’t running.
He reiterated several times how appreciative he was of the people, the ones who work at Whiteface and otherwise, who helped him get to a hospital Monday.
“It was just a fluke of an accident,” he said. “I was on that helicopter and heading to Burlington within 30 minutes of it. The team at Whiteface did an excellent job.”
And while he has a long road to recovery, including more surgeries, St. Pierre hopes to return to the mountain.
“We’re having to remind him that he needs to take a second and get some rest” Rashelle said. “He’s in amazing spirits at the moment.”
She added that his job is primarily snow making to start the season before switching to being an instructor as the season goes on.
“(The snowmakers) are a great group of guys,” St. Pierre said. “A big thank you to all the people who went out of their way to help, and thanks to everyone who has donated.”
Along with Rashelle, Charles has three other sisters: Christin, Hanna and Courtney.
In a statement on behalf of Whiteface, ORDA spokesperson Elise Ruocco said:
“At this time, we wish Charles St. Pierre a speedy recovery."
A GoFundMe site has been started to help his family pay for immediate expenses like his rent and utilities, as well as lodging and transportation costs to visit Charles in Burlington.
Email Ben Watson:
If you'd like to donate to the St. Pierre family to help with the costs surrounding Charles' recovery, visit tinyurl.com/rempczw.