Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2002-01-14
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Brewer Creek area, Purcell Mountains; 44 km southwest of Invermere
State: BC
Country: CANADA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 snowmobiler caught, buried, and killed...wearing a transciever

An Official report will be posted from the CAA

When it is submitted.

***Media Reports***

Snowmobiler caught in deadly avalanche

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

The Canadian Press contributed to this report

INVERMERE, B.C. -- Officials are warning those looking for adventure in B.C.'s backcountry to be extra cautious after a human-triggered avalanche claimed one life.

The Purcell Mountains south of Invermere are a beacon of natural beauty and playground for the

outdoor adventure seeker. But it's also a place of danger.

Monday, a class three avalanche tore through the Brewer Creek area killing a 45-year-old Edmonton man.

Harvey Rice was snowmobiling when the slide came down. The RCMP says Rice was moving up a

mountainside when the avalanche hit, burying him and his vehicle.

He was dug out and taken by helicopter to Invermere hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.

The incident followed a period in which temperatures throughout southern B.C. took a steep climb

before dropping down to normal. Such a flux creates extreme avalanche conditions.

The operator of Toby Creek Adventures, which specializes in taking people out on snowmobiles,

says this avalanche struck in a high-risk area.

"It's a big snow area, it's an intermediate, advanced area, it's a difficult area to get's not a high use area," said Scott Barsby.

This type of tragedy is not infrequent. Last year, avalanches killed nine snowmobilers.

"They're something to be feared or basically respected when you're in the mountains," said Barsby. "There's lots of them as there's lots of steep country, anything over 20 degrees could slide."

Officials say if you're going to head in to the back country, make sure you first check conditions and carry probes and shovels.

The snowpack throughout most of southern B.C. is relatively unstable right now with the risk of human triggered avalanches in the alpine and tree line ranging from considerable to high.

Former Edmontonian killed in B.C. snowslide


An Edmonton-area registered nurse was enjoying a break during a career move from one hospital to another when he was killed in an avalanche Monday.

Harvey Rice, 45, originally from Fort Saskatchewan, was in the midst of relocating with his wife, who is also a registered nurse, from Hay River, N.W.T., 1,055 km north of Edmonton, to Cranbrook, B.C., when tragedy struck.

"They were just away on vacation, so it's very shocking," said Elaine Kelly of the Hay River Community Health Board.

"They had actually resigned and were going to another job. Harvey's just a very talented nurse and very hard-working. (He's) just a super, super guy, just a real upstanding kind of guy."

Columbia Valley RCMP said Rice was snowmobiling with about six other people in an untravelled area of the Purcell Mountains, 44 km southwest of Invermere, which is 280 km southwest of Calgary, Monday afternoon when he and his machine were buried by an avalanche.

He had been moving up a mountainside when he was buried at the 2,590-metre level.

Clair Israelson, managing director of the Canadian Avalanche Centre, said the avalanche that brought down up to three kilometres of snow off the top of the mountain was measured as a Force 3, which brings down an estimated 50,000 tonnes of snow.

"It would destroy a car or wood-frame house," he said, adding the cause of the avalanche was being investigated. "It's very lucky it wasn't more people."

Rice was equipped with a beacon and his group dug him out from under the snow, Mounties said. They tried unsuccessfully to revive the man.

Another member of the group rode a sled to where the snowmobilers had parked, then drove a truck to phone for help about 2 p.m. Rescue crews brought Rice out by helicopter. He was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.

"He'll be missed," said the victim's sister-in-law Adella, adding Rice was raised on a Fort Saskatchewan-area farm. Close family members gathered last night at the home of Rice's parents. Rice has two adult daughters. He had previously worked as an EMT paramedic in Edmonton and area, his sister-in-law said.

Rice's wife, Vivian, had been visiting friends at the time of the tragedy. Kelly said the couple came to work at the 34-bed H.H. Williams Memorial Hospital in July 2000. Rice was an avid snowmobiler, she added. "Our condolences and thoughts and prayers are with them all," Kelly said.

An autopsy is being performed in Cranbrook, B.C. but results weren't available yesterday. Adella said a funeral will likely be held Friday in Fort Saskatchewan.