NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A local soldier from Long Island who nearly lost his life in Iraq has now survived an avalanche on Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
Marine Sgt. Keith Zeier lost his leg and suffered a minor brain injury after being hit by an explosive in Iraq in 2006. His new mission is to raise money for the families of wounded warriors and that’s what he and several others were doing when the avalanche hit.
Zeier, 26, and 11 others climbed Mount Washington, which has an elevation of more than 6,000 feet and is known to have some of the world’s worst weather, CBS 2′s Cindy Hsu reported.
The avalanche hit the team Thursday night, sending Zeier and two others tumbling 800 feet.
Miraculously, they all survived.
Kevin Flug grew up with Zeier and was not surprised he made it out.
“I feel like he kind of always has these near-death issues for a reason,” Flug said. “It was funny because I wasn’t that worried because I had a feeling he was fine and he was.”
Zeier joined the Marines at 17 and detailed in a video why he did.
“I would say the main reason is my best friend Michael Crisci. His dad was a fireman on 9/11. His dad was like a dad to me and when he passed away that definitely sealed the deal for me as this is what I was going to do,” Zeier said on that video.
The Crisci brothers told CBS 2′s Hsu that their friend suffers from survivors guilt and that’s why he works non-stop to raise money for the families of the warriors left behind.
“He wants to keep his friends’ memories alive, everything about them that he had the chance to live and they didn’t, so be feels like he has to do everything he possibly can with his life to fulfill those guys that he lost,” Michael Crisci said.
The Criscis said the avalanche is just the latest challenge their friend has conquered.
“I remember when he was little. He got hit into the boards in hockey and he fracture his spinal column and so he broke his neck, basically,” said John Crisci. “He’s been through every injury you can have. He has a leg missing and he’s in an avalanche now. He’s just been through the gauntlet and he’s come out even stronger every single time. You cannot hold him down at all.”
Zeier is in the hospital in New Hampshire and his injuries are non life-threatening.
His mother, Denise, said while she’s very proud of her son’s accomplishments, her birthday is next month and the best gift he could give he is to slow down just a little bit.
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