Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2006-04-21
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Nordschaw drainage of the Talchako River
State: BC
Country: CANADA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 snowboarder caught, buried, and killed

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BELLA COOLA: Fatality Snowboarder killed during filming

By SAGE BIRCHWATERTribune Staff Writer

Apr 25 2006

The rugged Central Coast mountains of Bella Coola claimed the life of a 36-year-old professional snowboarder last Friday, on the last day of the 2006 heliskiing season.

Thomas Brunner of Innsbruk, Austria was part of a group performing extreme snowboarding stunts for a film photo-shoot shortly after noon on April 21, in the Nordschaw drainage of the Talchako River, when he triggered an avalanche and was buried under four metres of snow.

Rescue crews had to contend with extremely rugged terrain in their effort to locate Brunner under the snow.

RCMP Cst. Brian Lamb says Brunner wasn't conscious or breathing when he was recovered from the avalanche, and efforts to revive him were not successful. Brunner was pronounced dead at 4:30 p.m. at Bella Coola General Hospital. The Coroner's Service and the RCMP are continuing to investigate the accident, he says.

Peter Mattson, president and operations manager of Bella Coola Heli Sports says Brunner's death was a tragic event at the end of what otherwise has been "an extremely fantastic" heliski season.

"It's pretty rough. We're all quite shaken."

Mattson says extreme skiing and extreme boarding is all about taking chances in very dangerous terrain.

He is quick to point out the distinction between the extreme sport and the heliski business he is running.

"Heliskiing is a guided ski trip led by professional guides on proven runs. Professional extreme skiing is all about stunts, so things can go wrong."

He says the veteran mountain boarder was very experienced in his field. At 36 years old, he says Brunner was old for a snowboarder doing big mountain riding.

"It's hard on you physically and most of these extreme boarders retire before they are 30. They are typically pushing the edge of what can be done, jumping off big cliffs and stuff like that."

The film shoot, sponsored by Quicksilver clothing company, was being shot by Mountain Sport Productions Inc.

Mattson says Bella Coola Heli Sports that operates out of Tweedsmuir Lodge, had heliski clients on safer runs in nearby mountains when the accident occurred. Despite the tragedy he says heliskiing is growing in popularity in the region.