Avalanche in remote area of Canada kills 2 snowboarders from Alaska
Two men from Alaska on a snowboarding trip in a remote area of Canada’s British Columbia province were killed Monday when they were caught and buried in an avalanche, according to officials.
Avalanche Canada said the deadly accident happened as a party of three snowboarders was climbing on foot on a slope on Haines Summit inTatshenshini-Alsek Park near the Alaskan border. The park is between Haines and Haines Junction, Yukon Territory.
The group was about two-thirds of the way up the mountain when a “slab avalanche” that was nearly five feet deep and 160 to 300 feet wide was triggered.
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The slide then traveled about 500 feet into a terrain trap because it caught the group of three, according to Avalanche Canada. A terrain trap is a “significant and often overlooked hazard” that may increase the risk of injury, according to the agency.
“Terrain traps are any terrain feature that increases the consequences of getting caught in an avalanche,” Avalanche Canada states. “For example, depressions and abrupt transitions increase the odds of a deep burial, cliffs, and trees increase the odds of traumatic injuries, and gullies and canyons reduce the chances of escape.”
Two of the snowboarders were fully buried. One other person was only partially buried and was able to break free and use a satellite messaging system to call for help.
Royal Canadian Mountain Police notified the Haines Volunteer Fire Department that they had received a signal from an emergency locator west of Three Guardsman Mountain in the mountain pass between the cities, Canadian Press reported.
Canadian authorities then launched a rescue operation that included a helicopter, emergency support, and the Haines Junction Search and Rescue team, the fire department said. Rescuers found one person alive and the two others who died.
The Haines Volunteer Fire Department said in a news release on Facebook the snowboarders were friends from Alaska. Their names will not be released until next of kin can be notified.
“The Canadian authorities will make arrangements to transport the deceased back home to the United States,” the fire department said. “Our prayers are with all members of their families and (our) hearts are broken in their loss.”
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The B.C. coroner office will investigate to determine how and where the men died.
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Christmas week saw storms, snow and strong winds that led to an increase in dangerous conditions for that corner of British Columbia, said James Minifie, lead avalanche technician for Avalanche Canada.
The area where the snowboarders were found is “fairly remote” mountainous terrain and is used for recreation by Canadian and American citizens, he said. High avalanche conditions persist in the area, Minifie said, and users should have an emergency plan and carry satellite-enabled communication.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.