FERNIE, B.C. - As many as eight people may be dead after an avalanche in the B.C. Interior buried 11 snowmobilers.
RCMP Cpl. Andy Veltmeyer confirmed eight people were buried under the snow. Jennifer Henkes, a spokeswoman with the Interior Health Authority, said there were some fatalities, but she couldn't say how many people were killed. "Interior Health would like to extend its deepest condolences to the victims' families during this very difficult time for them in the Elk Valley," she said.
Three people were taken to hospital, Henkes said, with two discharged Sunday and one remaining in stable condition.
"We do have one survivor in the Elk Valley Hospital," she said. "That person is being kept overnight for observation."
The avalanche happened Sunday afternoon between Sparwood and Fernie in B.C.'s Elk Valley, about three hundred kilometres southwest of Calgary.
Unconfirmed reports indicated the search had been called off for the night.
The Canadian Avalanche Centre issued an alert on Sunday saying mountain conditions in the region were "very touchy" because of a new snowstorm with wind combined with a weak snowpack.
Here is the latest from the RCMP in Fernie...my heart and prayers go out the families.
December 28, 2008
FERNIE AVALANCHE BURIES SNOWMOBILERS
Fernie: Two avalanches in the mountains outside Fernie has left eight snowmobilers unaccounted for.
The incident took place when some members from a group of seven snowmobilers were buried by an avalanche in the Harvey Pass area – a popular backcountry snowmobile destination located about 40 Km south of Fernie. A second group of four snowmobilers heard yelling from the area and came to the aid of members from the first group who were in the process of digging out their fellow riders. The newly formed group was able to locate one rider, but as they were digging him out at a depth of about three meters a second avalanche came down and buried the entire group. All of them were wearing avalanche beacons.
Two of the buried riders managed to self-rescue within about 20 minutes. These two used their avalanche beacons to locate a third buried victim who they rescued after an additional 20 minutes of digging.
The surviving group of three assessed the slope stability and their surroundings. They were located in a large bowl with massive cornices ready to come down. Based on their risk assessment of the possibility of a third avalanche, they began walking out. Eight snowmobilers are now unaccounted for. All 11 snowmobilers involved are males from the nearby town of Sparwood.
The Provincial Emergency Program was notified about the event at approximately 2:30 PM (Mountain Time) when automated distress calls were received from communications devices worn by the snowmobilers. A helicopter was quickly dispatched to the scene that picked up two of the three survivors. The third survivor was transported by ground with the assistance of Fernie Search and Rescue personnel. The three sustained minor injuries. One will be held in hospital for observation overnight.
A command post was established at the road access point to the scene, but due to the obvious avalanche hazard and growing darkness, the search for survivors had to be postponed until morning.
Approximately 70 CM of new snow has fallen in the mountains surrounding Fernie over the past few days. The Canadian Avalanche Centre is describing the avalanche hazard in this area as “high”. A plan is currently being developed that will involve establishing increased slope stability at the avalanche site before the search can resume at first light.
RCMP resources from Elk Valley Detachment and E Division are working with Fernie Search and Rescue and Provincial Emergency Program officials to assist with the search. RCMP avalanche trained police dogs are currently en-route to the scene.
The families of the missing snowmobilers have been notified about this tragedy. No further information will be released at this time. Additional information will be released on Monday. Please monitor www.bc-rcmp.ca for information about a media availability in the Fernie area. Sure hope the rest come home safe.
we were at silent snow was ok did not look like it was not slide condition. that is terrible i feel for all. hope they get them. gorman slid last week, quarts has been sliding all year so far in more then one area,
my condolences go out to all the families of the riders.to all the rescuers who are helping or helped we all thank you for your brave efforts and all who are still riding in these areas please take it easy
Thought and prayers to all families involved!.....
It's on eveyones mind when they go to the Mtn's for a ride....you just hope that it's the last thing you have to deal with!
Just curious bout one thing! The news said the S&R were alerted by automated equipment carried by the riders! Is there something there I don't know about? If there's such equipment available....I want to find out how to get it !!!!
God bless everyone involved in retrieving the rest of the crew... pray for their safe return !!!!!!!!
Whoever is in charge of the emoticon creations.....is it possible to get a Canadian flag @ half mast for the families involved?
News update just minutes ago by RCMP said they were alerted by a beacon(possibly SPOT satelite beacon) yesterday.The beacon is activated by the user and sends a signal by satelite to an Emergency contact in this case the RCMP said they recieved the call from Texas with the location.The RCMP also stated that the signal was not sent by one of the 3 guys that made it out yesterday.So, it must have been a buried rider that sent out the resue signal.