The BC Coroner’s Service has confirmed the five snowmobilers who died after a fatal avalanche near McBride yesterday were from Alberta.
* Vincent Eugene Loewen, aged 52, of Vegreville, Alberta.
* Tony Christopher Greenwood, aged 41, of Grand Prairie County, Alberta.
* Ricky Robinson, aged 55, of Spruce Grove, Alberta.
* Todd William Chisholm, aged 47, of St. Albert, Alberta.
* John Harold Garley, aged 49, of Stony Plain, Alberta.
The coroner says there were a number of snowmobilers in the area when the “very large” snowslide hit.
Avalanche Canada says they suspect the slide was human-caused.
Four separate groups of 17 snowmobilers were caught in the deadly snowslide’s path; some were completely buried, others who weren’t worked to dig others out.
RCMP Corporal Jay Grierson says at least one person suffered a non-life threatening injury and 11 people were flown out during the rescue effort.
Conditions that day were warm
Harmon Lidher and his father own and operate the North Country Lodge Motel in McBride.
“Avalanches do happen, but nothing so severe, right?”
He says weather conditions were warm on Friday, but didn’t seem out of the ordinary.
“I know the weather’s a little bit warmer, but other than, nothing crazy. I mean, I’ve been here on and off for six, seven years and I’ve never heard of anything happening like that.”
Village councillor Rick Thompson says weather conditions over the last few days should have indicated an avalanche was a possibility.
“Earlier in the week there was a lot of rainfall in the village which resulted in quite a bit of substantial snowfall up top.”
As for any additional information on the victims, Thompson says he has heard all five of them were from Alberta.
McBride does have a history of avalanches.
Last March, four men from Alberta were snowmobiling on the Lower Dore mountain range when an avalanche killed three people.
Dale Mason with Robson Valley Search and Rescue says this avalanche doesn’t appear out of the ordinary.
“I think this is my fifteenth avalanche I’ve managed. I’ve been around the horn a few times. It was about a size three avalanche.”
Mason says from what he and his crews have gathered, it had a seven hundred metre run and was about five hundred metres wide.
Robson Valley Search and Rescue were among the first responders.
He says on top of the five fatalities, there were a handful of survivors.
“We took six survivors off, and five fatalities off.”
Mason says conditions in the area were sunny at the time, and despite a heightened risk of an avalanche, there was no formal warning in place.
RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk says McBride and Valemount are working together with Robson Valley Search and Rescue.
“We believe that it involved several separate snowmobiling groups and RCMP in McBride are continuing their investigation into making inquiries into whether there were other groups that are unaccounted for at this time.”
Moskaluk says no further information will be released until the search and rescue and potential recovery efforts are completed.
Minister Shirley Bond represents the area of Prince George-Valemount, and had these comments on the deadly avalanche that killed 5 in McBride.
“Well I was heartbroken when I heard about the circumstances.”
The minister wanted to commend the courage and bravery of first responders.
“You know we have to remember that the community has a population of just under 600 people, so a very significant response being very well done, and I am certainly am thinking about those incredible people that respond at their own risk.”