Eighteen people died when the Bimbadeen and Carinya Lodges collapsed at Thredbo Alpine Village at 11:35pm on Wednesday 30 July 1997. About 3500 tonnes of debris came down the slope. John Cameron, a member of Brindabella Ski Club, and 17 residents of Bimbadeen Ski Lodge lost their lives when Carinya (owned by the Brindabella Ski Club) and Bimbadeen Lodges collapsed when the slope under the four storey Carinya Lodge slipped downhill. Bimbadeen Staff Lodge was then hit, and it too collapsed. Witnesses reported hearing "a whoosh of air, a crack and a sound like a freight train rushing down the hill". .
At 11.37pm, New South Wales Fire Brigades Communication Centre at Wollongong received emergency calls from the lodge at Thredbo. The local fire brigades had responded to reports of a 'small explosion' in the village. The first report to come through said that 100 people had been trapped.
Police arrived at 12.30am, and evacuated the area. A regional disaster was declared, with Goulburn established as the disaster coordination centre for the region, with Sydney also notified. Medical staff were sent from Cooma to Thredbo, and also from Canberra to Jindabyne, which was a point for triage. Four specialists were flown from St George Hospital in Sydney to Thredbo. By 2.30am, there were 100 professional services on the scene, and many volunteers such as from the Volunteer Rescue Association (VRA) of New South Wales, the State Emergency Service (SES) of New South Wales and the Australian Red Cross.
Inspector Gary Smith of the NSW Police arrived at 8.15am. At 10.00am, geophysicists who had been flown to the area from Sydney declared that the site was safe enough to begin an excavation of the top layers, but was still very unstable. At 10.30am, a medical team inspected the disaster site. Many of the rescue workers themselves required treatment of minor injuries and the medical team realised they had to be prepared to treat exhaustion and hypothermia among the workers.
The first body was recovered at 4.20pm. At 6.30pm, a second specialist medical team arrived from the Royal North Shore Hospital.
The steep slope of the cliff, and the sub-zero temperatures made rescue efforts difficult. By midnight, 24 hours after the landslide had occurred, just one body had been discovered. During the night, the temperature at Thredbo dropped to -14 °C (7 °F).
On Friday, one more body was discovered in the early morning, and two more later during the day. A large slab of concrete which had been part of the carpark between both lodges made rescue efforts difficult. At 3.00pm, doctors met the relatives of the missing.
During the day, several environmental issues were identified such as water and sewerage being cut off to the site, and some diesel fuel seeping into Thredbo Creek.
Rescue workers announced on Friday that there was little hope in finding any survivors. They had not completely given up hope, but Assistant Commissioner Ken Moroney told reporters; "I think at this stage the chances are quite remote."
At 5.37am on the Saturday, digging finished and rescue workers dropped sound equipment into a hole they had been digging, as was the standard procedure. This time, they detected some movement underneath the concrete slab.
Five minutes later rescue expert Steve Hirst, who used monitoring equipment to confirm the movement, yelled out "Rescue team working overhead, can anyone hear me?" to which a voice called back "I can hear you." When asked if he had sustained any injuries, he replied "No, but my feet are bloody cold!"
He was identified as ski instructor Stuart Diver. A pipe was then passed down the gap to provide warmer air which would increase his low body temperature. Another tube was put down which carried fluids which he could have two sips from every 20 minutes.
Steve Hirst explained to the press that Diver said he was uninjured, just extremely cold. Listen.WAV Police Superintendent Charlie Sanderson explained to the press the difficulty of extracting Diver because they could not risk the concrete slab falling on top of him. Listen.WAV
His position was two metres below where rescuers were, beneath two concrete slabs. Five hours later, rescuers had removed enough of the rubble for them to be able to touch Diver. Paul Featherstone was the paramedic who kept talking to Diver for 11 hours until he was freed. When the site had to be evacuated each time the rubble shifted, Paul would stay below ground to keep Stuart talking and distract him.
Stuart Diver was pulled from the wreckage later in the evening. His first words were as he breathed the pure mountain air, "That sky's fantastic!" He had lain trapped for 65 hours in a small space between two concrete slabs beside the body of his wife, Sally, who had died by drowning as a concrete beam stopped her from getting away from the water.
The rescue effort continued after Diver had been found, now that rescue workers had hope that there would be more survivors. They did not find any, and the last body was recovered on the following Thursday.
The Coroner's report released on 29 June 2000 said that the landslide was caused by water from a leaking water main. The landslide hit an eastern wing of one of the lodges first, which caused the nearby land to collapse onto lodges below
The State Government of New South Wales spent $40 million in out-of-court settlements with 91 businesses and individuals after the incident.
On the night of the 30th of July 2007, 1269 skiers and snowboarders carved down the Crackenback Supertrail at Thredbo with flares remembering the mudslide 10 years ago, breaking the previous Australian flare run record that stood at 701 (after the first anniversary of the landslide). At the end of the flare run people were treated to sausage rolls and drinks. As the participants ate they were treated with fireworks and all the public remembered that fateful moment. At the end of the fireworks 18 single flares were shot into the air commemorating the 18 people that died that day.