British Columbia avalanche death toll rises
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Today the RCMP announced the identity of a snowmobiler killed in an avalanche on Sunday, bringing British Columbia's (BC's) avalanche death toll for the past three weeks up to 13. The victim, identified as Harold Keith Waldner, 45, of Rycroft, Alberta, had been part of a group of 14 snowmobilers exploring a remote area near Chetwynd in northern BC.
Waldner and his party were about 25km (16mi) from their parked vehicles when the avalanche hit, burying five people in snow that was as much as three metres (9.8ft) deep. While all five were dug out by those who had not been buried, Waldner had already succumbed to the conditions, and his body was left by the group, fearing further slides; the body was recovered late Monday by search and rescue crews. The recovery effort had been hindered by the area still being at high risk for another avalanche.
BC has seen an inordinate number of casualties due to avalanches this winter. Waldner was one of two deaths last weekend, the other occurring near Enderby. Though 30 snowmobilers quickly responded to a call to assist in digging out 24-year-old Matt Simmons, the man was not wearing a beacon and was not recovered quickly enough to save him.
|I don't know what goes through their minds, but I guess the fun outweighs the risks and they're making the choice to go in these areas.|
—Constable Craig Douglass, RCMP
On December 28, eight snowmobilers died in slides near Fernie in BC's southeast.
The RCMP are asking the public to take every precaution when in the backcountry. "Please do not operate snowmobiles in areas where avalanches are likely or may possibly occur," a news release urged.
RCMP spokesman Constable Craig Douglass was critical of those not taking the necessary safety measures. "I don't know what goes through their minds, but I guess the fun outweighs the risks and they're making the choice to go in these areas." He noted that people can still enjoy the outdoors safely, as long as they find "places they can operate snowmobiles that are going to be safe, that are not in avalanche areas or zones."
In the 2002-2003 winter season, BC saw 29 people killed in avalanches.
- Darcy Wintonyk. "Police identify B.C.'s latest avalanche victim" — , January 14, 2009
- "Avalanche victim identified" — , January 14, 2009
- "Alta. man pulled from B.C. avalanche site" — , January 13, 2009
- "B.C. avalanche toll hits 13 after two killed in weekend slides" — , January 12, 2009
- Dave Dormer. "Avalanche deaths avoidable, say RCMP" — , January 13, 2009