- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 6, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Six Indiana residents were among those spared when a large earthquake struck in Nepal last month, leading to the deaths of at least 7,500 people.

David Carter of Indianapolis and the others were visiting the South Asian county for a 38-mile hike to the base camp at Mount Everest. But on April 25, day six of their village-to-village journey, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal, causing an avalanche at base camp and killing thousands of people.

Some of the hikers didn’t know what to think of the tremors and initially thought they were experiencing vertigo or altitude sickness.

“I thought I had vertigo for about 10 seconds, and I didn’t want to say anything to anybody,” Carter said. “But then I realized, after hearing the rock falling, that we were in a major earthquake. It was an eye-opener.”

But they pressed on, not fully understanding the significance of the earthquake until they reached their destination, when they realized they barely missed being buried alongside those who died.

“It didn’t occur to us that this would be a major casualty event until we got to (the village of) Lobuche and we saw the damage,” Carter said. “A few hours later, we saw the Sherpas coming down, and we heard from a Westerner and then some other Sherpas that there were a lot of people killed at base camp.”

Before the earthquake, the hikers discussed whether they should pick up the pace and reach base camp a day early, The Indianapolis Star (https://indy.st/1KMiKsQ ) reported. The group’s decision not to expedite their journey likely saved their lives.

“I think at the time you don’t really process it. I think we’ve all had opportunities to think back on it now,” said hiker Ace Yakey, vice president for community development at Lilly Endowment. “Is it coincidence? Is it divine intervention? Is it karma? I think it’s a combination of those things.”

The group had to spend several more days in Nepal until they were flown by helicopter to Kathmandu on April 30. The Indiana residents boarded a plane back home on May 2 and arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday night.

Although the hikers said it’s difficult to describe how they feel after what they endured in Nepal, Carter believes the trip ultimately brought them closer together.

“We know that we’ve been through something quite unique,” he said. “This was a life-changing event, and you don’t realize how much it changes you until maybe six months or a year after the trip. You still think about it.”

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com


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