All five men killed in a major avalanche while snowmobiling east of McBride, B.C. on Friday were from Alberta.
The B.C. coroner's office confirmed Saturday afternoon that one victim was from Vegreville, one was from Grande Prairie, and three were from the greater Edmonton area. The men have been confirmed as:
- Vincent Eugene Loewen, 52, of Vegreville,
- Tony Greenwood, 41, of Grande Prairie County,
- Ricky Robinson, 55, of Spruce Grove,
- Todd Chisholm, aged 47, of St. Albert
- John Garley 49, of Stony Plain.
The five were snowmobiling with 17 other men from four groups in the Renshaw area east of Mcbride, B.C. yesterday. The large, human-triggered avalanche occurred happened at around 1:30 p.m.
All five men died at the scene.
The B.C. Coroners Service and RCMP continue to investigate the deaths.
Dale Monaghan, a long time friend of John Garley, said the family is devastated by the loss of "a great man respected by many."
"John was an absolute terrific man, his nickname was "Big John" he was about 6'3 260 pounds," Monaghan told CBC. "He was just the biggest, most fun-loving individual you could imagine.
"A very caring father, a wonderful family man. He lived life to the fullest."
"He worked hard, played hard, and loved hard."
Monaghan went on to say that Garley was very experienced at snowmobiling and had first aid, and avalanche training.
A statement on behalf of Chisholm's family said he had a passion for sledding in the mountains.
"He died too young doing what he enjoyed with his sledding buddies. Thanks to the four friends who were with Todd for their efforts," it said.
"Todd will be sadly missed by his wife of 18 years, children, mother and father, brothers and sister, extended family, friends and community."
Chisholm enjoyed fishing, hunting, camping and playing games with his children and wife, as well as music, the statement said.
Country music singer George Canyon posted a tribute to fellow musician Chisholm on Saturday night that said Chisholm "was a dear friend and like a brother all those years ago."
Several politicians also responded to the tragedy, offering condolences on social media about the five killed by the avalanche.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the five who died yesterday in the Renshaw area.— @RonaAmbrose
The loss of lives in the avalanche near #McBride, British-Columbia is— @ThomasMulcair
heartbreaking. My thoughts are with those touched by this tragedy.
A very calm scene
RCMP say they were notified of two separate GPS beacon activations in the Renshaw area east of McBride around 1:30 p.m. PT, at which point they called in Search and Rescue.
There were at least four groups of snowmobilers caught in the slide, said RCMP. Rod Whelpton, the manager of Robson Valley Search and Rescue described the scene as "calm" during a press conference in Mcbride on Saturday.
Whelpton was out snowmobiling when his group, which included one other SAR volunteer, came across the site shortly after the avalanche.
Upon arrival, he said almost everyone affected had already dug themselves out of the snow.
In all his years of experience he told media he hadn't seen an avalanche of this magnitude before and that the group hit was comprised of "very prepared people."
"There were quite a few people around, and everyone was doing a very good job of digging out their own groups," said Whelpton, "it was fast, simple.
"Everyone did the right thing."
Avalanche Canada said it had received a report of what appears to be a "very large, significant avalanche event" in the North Rockies.
"There are layers of concern in the snowpack in many parts of this region (and others) and a fairly significant weather event added rain and snow to the snowpack over the last few days," said Karl Klassen with Avalanche Canada.
"This may have produced stresses in the snowpack capable of producing large avalanches and this condition could take several days to settle and bond."
Klassen said the avalanche was human-triggered.