8 feared dead in B.C. interior avalanche
Eight snowmobilers are feared dead after two avalanches buried 11 people in the B.C. Interior about 20 kilometres east of Fernie Sunday morning.
CTV has learned that some of the snowmobilers had tried to free the others when a second slide buried them as well.
Three snowmobilers were reportedly able to walk away and were later rescued by helicopter and taken to area hospitals.
The slide happened in a fairly remote area known as Harvie Creek, in the Flathead Valley. It's an area known to locals for snowmobiling.
The Mayor of Sparwood, David Wilks told CTV News Sunday night the group of snowmobilers, all believed to be friends in their mid-to-late 20's and from the Sparwood area, was traveling together when they were swept away by the avalanches.
"One avalanche triggered around 11 a.m. and as a result of that, a number of the group in this party had gone back to assist those that been buried. And while trying to retrieve them, a second avalanche broke at the same spot burying the others trying to assist in the recovery of the first people."
He says the group had gone snowmobiling as a group before.
A spokesperson from B.C.'s Interior Health Authority confirmed there were fatalities, but the exact number wasn't immediately known.
Jennifer Henkes confirmed that three snowmobilers had been rescued from the avalanche and were taken to hospital.
She noted that two of the rescued were released from hospital and that one person was in stable condition.
"We do have one survivor in the Elk Valley Hospital," she said. "That person is being kept overnight for observation."
According to some reports, the search for the missing snowmobilers was called off Sunday night after the sun went down. David Wilks says according to RCMP officials, a number of avalanche technicians will be out at the scene early Monday morning to determine the stability of the area, and that the search would resume.
On the Canadian Avalanche Centre website Sunday, it warned there were a number of avalanches in the area and that "new storm snow with high winds could overload the weak snowpack" and "soft slabs are building at all elevations, and these will become more reactive to human-triggering, and bigger, over the coming days."
"For the last couple of weeks we've been at minus 20 to minus 30. Then in the last two or three days it's warmed up to minus seven to minus three. In the last two or three days we've had approximately eight inches of snow or 15 centimetres. In the back country, that would equate to a lot more. As a result of those conditions, it is ripe for avalanche because of the crystallization of the snow and the cold weather and then you have a wet snow on top of it and it is prime for avalanche." Wilks said.
"This appears to be one of those times when all the right things went wrong at the right time. Unfortunately, we have an event that hopefully will have some good results."