Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2003-03-20
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Ram Mountain Range, southwest of Onion Lake
State: AB
Country: CANADA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 snowmobiler caught, buried, and killed

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Snowmobiler's body recovered after avalanche

Sylvan Lake man killed near Rocky Mountain House

Colette Derworiz

Calgary Herald

Saturday, March 22, 2003

The body of a Sylvan Lake man was discovered early Friday, one day after he and a friend were caught in an avalanche while snowmobiling near Rocky Mountain House.

The latest death brings the number of people killed in avalanches in British Columbia and Alberta this winter to 18, including seven Calgary students who died Feb. 1 while on an outdoor education outing.

Thursday's slide occurred when the two men were riding up a chute in the Ram Mountain Range, southwest of Onion Lake. One of the men got caught in the avalanche.

His friend tried unsuccessfully to locate the victim by digging. He then drove to an area where he could get cellular coverage and called 911.

Rescue crews worked until dark and continued their search early Friday morning.

The body of 41-year-old Darcy Chambers was found Friday at about 8:45 a.m.

Sgt. Brian Halladay of the Rocky Mountain House RCMP said the men were not carrying avalanche gear or wearing beacons.

"It certainly does (make a difference)," he said. "A beacon will narrow down the search area."

Two search dogs located the victim.

Half a dozen Parks Canada personnel, as well as search and rescue team members, an RCMP officer and a Clearwater County employee helped dig the man out.

Halladay said it is important that anyone entering the backcountry be equipped with probes and shovels, as well as beacons.

The Alberta Snowmobile Association -- which represents 58 snowmobile clubs across Alberta -- offers a number of snowmobile training courses, including an avalanche awareness course.

Lori Zacaruk, an instructor and member of the Calgary Snowmobile Club, said every snowmobiler should carry avalanche gear.

"There is no excuse anymore for not having training," she said. "It's so very important."

Zacaruk said there is an avalanche awareness course being held in the Crowsnest Pass this weekend to inform snowmobilers about safe places to ride and how to use the equipment.

"No one should be going into the backcountry without avalanche gear," she said.

"You don't plan to be in an avalanche so you have to be prepared at all times."

Thursday's avalanche is the first this season causing the death of an Alberta snowmobiler.

Sixteen skiers and snowboarders were killed in three separate avalanches in British Columbia this year, and another person was killed while snowshoeing in the backcountry near Lake Louise last weekend.

Avalanches also closed highways between Alberta and British Columbia earlier this month in what officials are calling the worst slide season in decades.

cderworiz@theherald.canwest.com

? Copyright 2003 Calgary Herald