Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2003-01-20
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Durand Glacier, near Revelstoke, BC
State: BC
Country: CANADA
Fatalities: 7
Summary: 11 skiers caught, 1 injured, 7 killed

INITIAL MEDIA REPORTS

AN OFFICIAL REPORT FROM CAA WILL BE POSTED WHEN AVAILABLE

***MEDIA REPORTS***

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Washington snowboarder among B.C. avalanche dead

01/21/2003

Associated Press and KING 5 Staff Reports

REVELSTOKE, British Columbia ? A man formerly of Mount Vernon, Wash, was among those killed in an avalanche that claimed seven lives in British Columbia's Selkirk Mountains Monday.

Thirty-six-year-old Craig Kelly listed his home as Nelson, B.C. and was considered a legendary snowboarder.

The Burton Snowboard company of Burlington, Vermont, confirmed that Kelly was killed, company spokeswoman Lee Ault said.

Kelley was a company-sponsored snowboarder who lived in both Mount Vernon, Wash. and Nelson, B.C.

In a recent profile of him on the outdoor Web site mountainzone.com, Kelly explains why he went into the backcountry.

"I didn't really get that into backcountry riding until about eight or 10 years ago and the main reason for it is the ski areas are more crowded. I've always been into powder, that's what I like riding, and now you've got to go farther to get it."

In the meantime, fog interfered with investigators Tuesday trying to reach the scene of the avalanche that killed seven back-country skiers in southeastern British Columbia a day earlier.

The names of the others killed have not yet been made public. Police say they are a 49-year-old man from Littleton, Colorado, a 50-year-old man from Los Angeles and a 39-year-old woman from Truckee, California.

The Canadians are a 50-year-old man from Canmore, Alberta, a 25-year-old woman from Calgary, Alberta, and a 30-year-old man from New Westminster.

The skiers were among a group of 24 in a tour organized by Selkirk Mountain Experience Skiing.

The survivors spent the night at a chalet accessible only by helicopter.

An investigation began Tuesday into what kind of warnings the backcountry skiers had before they left for their trip.

One other skier was hospitalized after the avalanche Monday near Durrand Glacier in the Selkirk mountain range, police said, while the rest of the group of 21 avoided serious injury.

Authorities questioned survivors to find out if the group was informed that conditions were rated as "hazardous" before they set out.

The remote area where the avalanche struck, accessible only by helicopter, contributed to hours of confusion Monday from incomplete or erroneous reports about what happened.

Initial reports said eight skiers died, all of them American, out of a group of 11. Later, Sgt. Randy Brown of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said seven people died ? three Americans and four Canadians ? from a group of 21 skiers that split into two groups on the mountain.

Brown said two of the American fatalities were from California and one from Colorado, but he released no further information about their identities or hometowns. The other four dead were Canadian ? two from British Columbia and two from Alberta.

One skier was hospitalized, then later released, according to Brown.

"He was covered up in the avalanche but didn't sustain any real serious injuries," Brown said.

The skiers had split into two groups, and all the dead and injured were among 11 skiers who were lower down on the slope when the avalanche struck, Brown said.

"This is a group that was well organized," he said. "They had guides there and rescue equipment was available."

Regional coroner Ian McKichan previously said eight people died and two were rescued, while Bob Pearce, a spokesman for the British Columbia Ambulance Service, said there were 12 people rescued. The confusion apparently was due to the officials being unaware that the skiers had divided into two groups.

Ingrid Boaz at Selkirk Mountain Experience said the skiing party had been flown to the company's chalet near the glacier, 6,360 feet above sea level in the heart of the mountains in eastern British Columbia about 60 miles from the border with Alberta.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien issued a statement on the "tragic loss of life."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families during this very painful time," he said.

The Selkirk firm's Web site says the Revelstoke-based company, founded in 1985, caters to adventurers and described the area as "very remote and wild."

Backcountry skiers "wear special ski gear, climb up hills, lock into their skis and ski down," said Clair Israelson, director of the Canadian Avalanche Association in Revelstoke.

Israelson said 50 people have been killed in British Columbia snow slides in the past five years, including 10 this year.

McKichan said avalanche conditions in the area were rated as hazardous Monday. A weather pattern of temperatures going from above freezing to well below freezing created layers of ice and snow that increased the chances of avalanche, local residents said.

In a weekly bulletin, the Canadian Avalanche Association warned people entering the backcountry to "be alert for remote triggering and continue to be vigilant about avoiding those tempting big, steep alpine faces."

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Avalanche kills seven backcountry skiers

01/21/2003

Associated Press and KING 5 Staff Reports

REVELSTOKE, British Columbia ? An investigation is beginning Tuesday today into what kind of warnings a group of backcountry skiers had before an avalanche buried them in British Columbia's jagged mountains, killing seven, including three Americans.

One other skier was hospitalized after the avalanche Monday near Durrand Glacier in the Selkirk mountain range, police said, while the rest of the group of 21 avoided serious injury.

Authorities will question survivors to find out if the group knew the conditions were rated as "hazardous" before they set out.

The remote area where the avalanche struck, accessible only by helicopter, contributed to hours of confusion Monday from incomplete or erroneous reports about what happened.

Initial reports said eight skiers died, all of them American, out of a group of 11. Later, Sgt. Randy Brown of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said seven people died ? three Americans and four Canadians ? from a group of 21 skiers that split into two groups on the mountain.

The area is only accessible by helicopter.

Brown said two of the American fatalities were from California and one from Colorado, but he released no further information about their identities or hometowns. The other four dead were Canadian ? two from British Columbia and two from Alberta.

One skier was hospitalized, then later released, according to Brown.

"He was covered up in the avalanche but didn't sustain any real serious injuries," Brown said.

The skiers had split into two groups, and all the dead and injured were among 11 skiers who were lower down on the slope when the avalanche struck, Brown said.

Investigators were at the scene Tuesday.

Several of the 14 survivors were buried but managed to dig themselves out, he said.

"This is a group that was well organized," he said. "They had guides there and rescue equipment was available."

Regional coroner Ian McKichan previously said eight people died and two were rescued, while Bob Pearce, a spokesman for the British Columbia Ambulance Service, said there were 12 people rescued. The confusion apparently was due to the officials being unaware that the skiers had divided into two groups.

Ingrid Boaz at Selkirk Mountain Experience said the skiing party had been flown to the company's chalet near the glacier, 6,360 feet above sea level in the heart of the mountains in eastern British Columbia about 60 miles from the border with Alberta.

Prime Minister Jean Chretien issued a statement on the "tragic loss of life."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims' families during this very painful time," he said.

The Selkirk firm's Web site says the Revelstoke-based company, founded in 1985, caters to adventurers and described the area as "very remote and wild."

Backcountry skiers "wear special ski gear, climb up hills, lock into their skis and ski down," said Clair Israelson, director of the Canadian Avalanche Association in Revelstoke.

Israelson said 50 people have been killed in British Columbia snow slides in the past five years, including 10 this year.

McKichan said avalanche conditions in the area were rated as hazardous Monday. A weather pattern of temperatures going from above freezing to well below freezing created layers of ice and snow that increased the chances of avalanche, local residents said.

In a weekly bulletin, the Canadian Avalanche Association warned people entering the backcountry to "be alert for remote triggering and continue to be vigilant about avoiding those tempting big, steep alpine faces."

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Avalanche kills seven skiers

WebPosted Jan 21 2003 03:21 AM PST

REVELSTOKE, B.C. - Four Canadians and three Americans died in an

avalanche Monday while skiing on the Durrand Glacier north of

Revelstoke, B.C.

Two of the people killed in the slide were from B.C. and two others

were from Alberta. Three were from the U.S.

Thirteen other people in the party were

rescued unharmed.

"All of our investigators are still up at the

lodge due to weather. At first light we

hope we'll be able to get back up into

there and get our investigators out," said

RCMP Sgt. Randy Brown.

"What we had was 21 people skiing in two

separate groups. We figure one group had about 10 or 11 people when

the avalanche came down," said Brown.

The owner of the caf? where the group had eaten before heading up

the mountain said most in the group were in their early 40s and they

were all very fit and experienced.

Layne Seabrook also said the group had a top-notch guide. "He's well

known around the world for his guiding abilities. When it comes to

guiding, he's known as a guru," said Seabrook.

The glacier is a remote but popular back-country skiing destination that

attracts tourists from the all over the world.

The avalanche hazard in the Selkirk Mountains, north of Revelstoke is

listed as "moderate." Claire Israelson, with the Canadian Avalanche

Association, says the snowpack seemed to be stabilizing, but it is still a

dangerous time.

Israelson says the level of hazard varies. This has been a very

dangerous year in the back-country for avalanches, and people seemed

to be heeding the warning.

An average of 10 people die every year from avalanches in B.C. Up until

Monday, there had only been two deaths this winter on B.C.

mountains.