I posted about my personal experience with a tree well in 2006. I'll never forget the feeling of snow blocking my airway, making getting a breath impossible, and the helpless feeling of being upside down in bottomless snow. I was able to clear breathing space and staying quiet avoid more snow collapsing from above. I can assure you no one could have stood in that soft powder and hauled my out by my ankles, but having my skis released by my partners, allowed me to pivot my feet below my waist holding branches to support my upper body, then climb back out.
This video really shows the importance of a buddy system, but remember that you need to wait at short intervals to be sure everyone clears the area, including the guy in back. If you leave him far behind, you'll never climb back fast enough to do a rescue. I'd suggest that the guy with rescue gear was the most experienced skier, sweeping the group, and was in the right position to help as a result of advance preparation and backcountry training. His preparedness and awareness were no accident.
I've never been caught in a tree well but did get caught facing down hill in a deep wind drift. I simply could not get myself upright and the slough completely buried my head, and I took in a bunch of snow down my airway. It is a freaky experience when you try to breathe, and find yourself choking.
As far as people skiing in the BC w/o proper avy gear, I just don't understand that mentality. I see it all the time though. Even side country skiing. I make a point every preseason to practice assembly of my shovel and probe, and to check that they are in good working condition. I have always had the mindset, that I am responsible for my own avy gear, the correct use of it, and to train with it. That includes beacon search training. I don't know how you accidentaly become preprared.
I agree with Bob Peter's excellent critique of the event. I would just add a few more comments.
As a 15 year ski patroller, volunteer EMT-B firemen, and captain of the local rescue squad I have been involved in similar life and death situations countless of times. Some times it goes smooth as silk and sometimes the rescuers for what ever reason are just not communicating very well. Worst case is they can't agree and two people are arguing over who is in control. As Bob mentioned POV guy took control of the situation. This is probably the best thing that happened here. You need one person in charge. Can you imagine if nobody took control and everyone was just wondering what to next. Believe it or not it happens and usually on the worst calls. Its kind of like deer in the headlights syndrome. POV guy took control which was great. The other people should have been doing more. When you are NOT in charge you got to be thinking about all the other stuff the person in charge is NOT thinking about and just start doing what obviously needs to be done. Like moving skis and poles out of the way, blowing a whistle for more help, or telling the person in charge I got a shovel and I am digging right here now. Then you dig your brains out until you can't dig anymore.
As Bob said, POV guy grabbing the guys boots was also an excellent first response. As we say in the EMS business, airway, airway, airway is your second responsibility. No airway and patients don't live very long. Grabbing boots and telling the person to stop moving helped ensure he had an open and clear airway.
Notice I said airway is second responsibility. What is the first responsibility? First responsibility would be scene safety. If you were only two people and the first responder attempts to save his partner in the tree well and he gets stuck in the tree well then you both die.
I can tell you the very best emergency calls are with people I have trained together with in more drills than I care to count. On a real call there is absolutely no talking. That's right no talking. Why you may ask. Because there is no need to talk. Everyone is moving 110% speed. and doing all the things that need to be done without communicating. Those are the best of the best calls. It doesn't happen very often like that but when it does you talk after the call and everyone says WOW that was a good call. Given this situation in this video, POV guy took control was a good thing and he did a pretty good job communicating and managing the scene.