Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2000-03-19
Submitted By: Frank W. Baumann
Place: Wasp Creek near Pemberton
State: BC
Country: CANADA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 Heli-ski guide caught buried and killed

On Sunday, March 19, a 38 year old local ski guide, Eric Larrat Smith,

who had considerable backcountry skiing and avalanche experience, took a

group of clients from Hawaii out for a day of heli-skiing. The

avalanche danger in the general area that day was rated by the Canadian

Avalanche Association and the Whistler-Blackcomb Ski Patrol as being

"Considerable".

Smith and his group chartered a local helicopter company and had

completed several runs before they decided to ski a run in the Wasp

Creek drainage, about 20 kilometres north of Pemberton, B.C. (about 120

km north of Vancouver, B.C.). Despite the presence of some hazard,

another local heli-ski operator, and dozens of snowmobilers and some ski

tourers, were also in the same general area that day. All heli-skiers

involved in the incident were wearing avalanche transceivers and Smith

is reported to have dug test pits earlier in the day to check stability.

On the fateful run, Smith skied ahead of the group down a convex roll of

unknown steepness. As he started down, a slab avalanche about 50 cm

deep released, carried him down the slope, and fully buried him. A

second group of heli-skiers and a guide, who were coming into the same

area, witnessed the accident, landed, and started a transceiver search

for the victim. Smith was located about 30 minutes later under about

1.5 metres of snow. CPR was immediately started but a doctor, who had

been flown to the scene, soon pronounced him dead. The cause of death

has not been positively determined, but may have been due to trauma.

Frank W. Baumann

Squamish, B.C.