Detailed Accident Report

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Date: 2009-01-11
Submitted By: WWAN
Place: Mara Mountain area in the B.C. Interior
State: BC
Country: CANADA
Fatalities: 1
Summary: 1 snowmobiler caught, buried, and killed


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B.C. avalanche toll rises to 13

By Kelly Sinoski and Tiffany Crawford, Vancouver Sun

January 13, 2009

The body of Matt Simmons, 24 who was snowmobiling in the Mara Mountain area in the B.C. Interior was recovered Sunday night. Three men who were snowmobiling sent out a call for help when the avalanche occurred.

Police said about 30 fellow snowmobilers in the area responded to assist in the search. They started probing for the man, but police said because he was not wearing a beacon it took some time for them to locate him.

The body has been transported to a hospital in Salmon Arm, B.C., and the coroner is investigating.

In a separate incident, recovery efforts to retrieve another man's body in eastern B.C. were hampered Monday because of an avalanche risk and snowy conditions making it impossible to fly helicopters.

"It's very unlikely we'll get in there today," said RCMP Const. Craig Douglass, adding that the only way to get into the mountainous terrain where the body is believed to be is by snowmobile.

"Certainly they're not going to put rescuers at risk so if they have to wait for the weather to clear and they have to wait to go in on foot then it could be several days, we just don't know."

Douglass said five men were caught after the slide came down Sunday on a group of 14 snowmobilers near Chetwynd, B.C., located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, about 690 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

The men were able to dig everyone out but one man was already dead. The men then had to make the decision to leave the man's body behind over fears of another avalanche.

"Their snowmobiles were buried and they couldn't take someone back with them, plus they were worried about time and getting back before nightfall so they made the decision to leave the deceased behind," said Douglass.

Attempts to recover the snowmobiler's body will be made after an avalanche technician has deemed the area safe, he said.

"We don't encourage any snowmobiler to operate their equipment on mountains in times when it may be unsafe," Douglass said. "It's better to operate on flat land."

Meanwhile, a 39-year-old snowboarder from Cincinnati, Ohio, who was caught in a slide on Alice Mountain near Terrace last week died in hospital on the weekend.

The snowboarder, whose name has not been released, was in a group of four people, including his son, who were dropped on the mountain by helicopter.

At least three avalanches struck the mountain, burying the man for about 10 minutes.

His 19-year-old son remained on the surface and was rescued without injury. Two others managed to ski out.

The man was taken from Terrace Mills Memorial Hospital to a medical facility in Washington state where he died.

Before this weekend's incidents, 11 people had died in avalanches in B.C. in the last two weeks, including eight snowmobilers in Fernie.

On Dec. 24, a 47-year-old Whistler resident died after skiing into rocks in an area of Whistler mountain open to the public.

No name was released. Searchers confirmed he had died in an avalanche.

On Dec. 31, a 37-year-old man was killed in an avalanche in a closed area of Blackcomb Mountain.

No name has been released.

While searchers recovered his body, a 26-year-old man was buried in an avalanche in the Hidden Chutes area of Whistler Mountain near the Symphony Bowl after he went snowboarding out of bounds.