Servant, Husband, Father, survivor, speaker, author.
That’s how former Olympic ice hockey champion Eric LeMarque describes himself on his Facebook page.
But the story behind LeMarque the survivor is one that defies belief. Most people caught in a severe blizzard without proper clothing, food and means of warmth would perish after a few days, but Eric survived an amazing eight days.
When he was finally rescued from remote country in California’s rugged Sierra Nevada Mountain Range on Friday 13 February 2004, the rescue mission had been changed to a body recovery one, so finding him alive led to him being dubbed ‘The Miracle Man’.
The recent movie based on his story, 6 Below, with Hollywood star Josh Hartnett as Eric, portrays Eric at a low point in his life and in the grip of drug addiction, taking time out to escape from his problems by snowboarding in spectacular but wild country.
In the movie, there is a crucial turning point when Eric chooses to ditch his last remaining bag of crystal meth and starts to reclaim his life. Reflecting on his motivation for taking off with just some gum, light clothing and snowboard, Eric tells Warcry that he was tracking a big winter storm that had dumped more than three metres of perfect champagne powder snow—a snowboarder’s idea of bliss.
Eric says that at the time, although he had given his heart to Christ, he had no idea what it meant to be a Christian.
“I was leading a full-blown sinner-life, although I did remember Psalm 23, with my snowboard as my staff that comforted me as I walked through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil,” he says.
During his eight days in the frozen wilderness he was shadowed by wolves and battled blizzards, hunger, altitude sickness and hypothermia, making his survival a true miracle.
When he was discovered by a Black Hawk Helicopter, whose crew were sure they were now looking for a corpse, his body temperature was only 30°C, and he was suffering badly from frostbite.
The effect of the frostbite was that he became a double amputee, losing both legs beneath the knee.
For most people, this would be the end of extreme sports, but Eric defied expectations here, too. He was fitted with two prostheses and a year later he was back on his snowboard at the top of Mammoth Mountain.
It’s no surprise that, 14 years later, Eric is a highly sought-after motivational speaker, and says that his survival is a story of adversity, change, hope, ingenuity, perseverance, spiritual restoration and ultimate triumph.
Warcry asked Eric why he thought he had survived, when the laws of nature mean he should have perished.
“I believe God entrusted me to do the right thing with this accident—living for others and not for myself,” he says.
His real-life story has earned kudos from major media outlets, with The Washington Post describing his survival as “the most jaw-dropping story we’ve ever reviewed” and People Magazine claiming that Eric’s experience is “one of the top 20 most amazing survival stories in history”.
Eric has well and truly grabbed his chance of beginning a new life with God, leading by example and sharing his faith and strength with audiences on hundreds of television programs, and through his books.
Away from the limelight, Eric is incredibly grateful for his second chance which enables him to fulfil his chosen roles as husband to wife Hope and father to Nicholas and Zachariah.
Where another person would have perished, God had other plans for Eric LeMarque.