VANCOUVER — There’s no evidence to support criminal charges in relation to a spectacular snowslide triggered when three sledders went high-marking on a B.C. mountain last month, say RCMP who investigated the fatal avalanche.
Two snowmobilers from Alberta were killed and dozens more buried and injured when the snow tumbled down on upwards of 200 people who had ventured into the provincial backcountry for recreation.
Police say the tragedy at the Big Iron Shoot-Out was not linked to the event. The loosely organized outing on March 13 was limited to drag racing in a flatter portion of Boulder Mountain, said Sgt. Rob Vermeulen.
Once that event ended, a large group of the sledders broke away and headed over to the steeper area of the mountain known as Turbo Bowl.
They went despite an avalanche warning being in effect.
“There was no evidence to show that high-marking was part of what some people are calling the ’Big Iron Shoot-Out,’ or that it was sanctioned by any event organizer,” Vermeulen said Thursday.
High marking is a game where sledders attempt to see who can ride farthest up a slope without being forced to turn back. Friends of one of the men who died said he was among those stuck at the top of the mountain.
Vermeulen said charges could have been laid against the men who the crowd watched climb the mountain cliff, but police aren’t going that route.
“You get into how do you determine which, if any of them, caused the avalanche — there’s a number of factors,” he said. “There was a number of possibilities we looked at, but the evidence did not bear out.”
The Mounties reviewed the findings of their investigation with B.C. Crown counsel and chose not to submit a recommendation for charges.
At one point, a 10-person team from the major-crimes unit was trying to determine who organized the unsanctioned event.
“We did identify someone who was the quasi-organizer of that first event,” Vermeulen said.
“That person would not speak to us, but we were able to speak to other participants, other witnesses, which is how we arrived at our determination.”
Staff at the Revelstoke-based Canadian Avalanche Centre, the organization that puts out avalanche warnings, declined comment on the decision not to lay charges.