Snowmobiler caught in avalanche died, search and rescue official says

The snowmobiler who was left unconscious after an avalanche struck near Kimberley, in southeast B.C., has died, according to a search and rescue official.

2 Albertans missing in separate northeastern B.C. avalanche

The snowmobiler who was left unconscious after an avalanche struck near Kimberley, in southeast B.C., has died, according to a search and rescue official.

Search and rescue crews assembled a group of 10 to 15 people to try to reach what they initially thought was an injured and unconscious snowmobiler.

But the rescue mission has become a body recovery operation, said Peter Reid, a spokesperson for the search and rescue team.

"I do have confirmation that the deceased was buried," Reid said. "He was buried for about five minutes and they did have to dig him out."

The snowmobiler was part of a group of five people who were travelling in the Hellroaring Creek area, a remote location west of Kimberley.

The area, in the Purcell Mountains, contains steep and rugged terrain.

An RCMP official said earlier the five snowmobilers were in the Hellroaring Creek area when the avalanche hit and four of them got out of the avalanche zone.

"One met us at the road," Sgt. Laurie Jalbert of the Kimberley RCMP said. "The report is four are out of the avalanche area completely. One is in the area and in the need of medical attention."

The man who remained in the avalanche zone was said to have been dug out of the snow by one or more people in his party before he was left there, unconscious, when it became too dangerous to stay with him.

Reid said avalanche conditions in the area are considerable to high, meaning an avalanche technician has to make sure it's safe before rescue crews can be dispatched.

Emergency crews have a good idea where the man is and were trying to dispatch a helicopter to reach him and airlift him to the East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook, B.C.

2 still missing in avalanche near McBride

Meanwhile, provincial authorities continue to search for two snowmobilers missing in an avalanche near McBride in British Columbia's Robson Valley. Three men were buried in the avalanche on Renshaw mountain, although one man freed himself, the RCMP said in a statement.

A search and rescue team arrived at the mountain around midnight on Tuesday, but could not locate the missing people and had to call off the search until daytime, the RCMP said.

While rescuers found the avalanche site Wednesday, they were hampered by poor conditions. The RCMP said in its statement that the mountain was too unstable to safely conduct a search.

Police say avalanche-control measures would be completed before the search could safely resume.

Both missing men are believed to be from Stony Plain, a suburb west of Edmonton.

So far, 19 people have been killed in avalanches in B.C. this year. Most were snowmobilers.

With files from the Canadian Press