ROSSLAND, B.C. — One person has reportedly been killed by an avalanche in south central British Columbia.
Paula Gaul, co-owner of the Big Red Cats ski company in Rossland, B.C., said she received a call on Monday afternoon from a snowmobiler who had just dug his friend out of an avalanche on nearby Mount Mackie “only to find that he couldn’t save him.”
In a Facebook note mailed to The Canadian Press, Gaul said her company was called to help with the recovery, “but it was already clear that his friend had passed away, and it was a recovery rather than a rescue.”
Gaul said the victim was one of four friends out snowmobile skiing in the Big Red Cats tenure area.
“One of them was unfortunately caught in a slide, buried, and suffered severe trauma,” Gaul wrote.
She said the foursome weren’t guests or staff, “just people using our snow roads in order to access ski terrain.”
RCMP haven’t confirmed a death, but said in a statement Monday night that it and area search and rescue crews are responding to an avalanche report that came in around 3:30 p.m. local time.
Mounties said the report was called in from a snowmobiler.
In the statement, RCMP said it was reported that one person may have been trapped, but that the report hadn’t been confirmed by rescuers.
Gaul said in her Facebook note that the incident was reported to the Canadian Avalanche Association.
The association said on its website that “an avalanche fatality” was reported to its centre late Monday afternoon.
“This incident involved backcountry snowmobiling,” the association website states. “We have no further details at this time.”
Gaul said her company had been in contact with RCMP through mobile phone and the ski company’s radio network on Monday.
“They were quite clear not to put any additional people in danger, so after our guides located the victim and determined that he was no longer alive, they left the area,” she said.
Gaul said she doesn’t yet know the identify of the victim, or the other three people. However, she suspects they might be local because they knew her telephone number.
She also said the incident happened in an area her company has identified as being prone to avalanche activity.
“And snow stability tests during the day did indicate increasing instability,” she said.
“Though Big Red Cats was not involved in the accident, our condolences go out to his friends and family, and we will try to help however we can.”
Gaul said Big Red Cats will not be operating Tuesday out of respect for the avalanche victim and his friends, and so staff can help with the investigation.
Monday’s avalanche comes a week after a candlelight vigil was held in Sparwood, B.C., west of the Alberta border, to remember eight men killed by a series of avalanches one year earlier.
One of the men was buried while the group was backcountry snowmobiling. The rest died when they were engulfed by a second slide as they tried to save their friend.