British Columbia

Avalanche Canada presents findings on deadly McBride avalanche at upcoming safety seminars

Avalanche Canada has used what they learned from the fatal accident in the Renshaw area to create tips for snowmobilers who may end up in a similar situation.

The deadly avalanche in the Renshaw area killed 5 snowmobilers in January of 2016

An aerial photo of the mountain range where five snowmobilers died in anavalanche near the Interior community of McBride, B.C. in January 2016. (CBC)

Avalanche Canada is conducting a number of safe snowmobile practice presentations throughout B.C.'s Interior using information gathered from the aftermath of the Jan. 2016 avalanche that killed five snowmobilers.

Gilles Valade, the executive director for Avalanche Canada, says he and his team have been studying what happened that day using information provided by several witnesses and the coroner.

"We're using the incident and basically dissecting the facts of what happened, how the snow pack was setting itself up last year, looking at the decisions that were made that day and the events that [transpired] after that." he said.

Valade says some of the snowmobilers may have good intentions while preparing for the trip, they might not have had all the necessary tools and education.

For example, avalanche airbags have been gaining in popularity among backcountry users. Valade says although they are a good tool, they won't save lives every time they're used.

"In this case a few of the snowmobilers had deployed airbags and they still were deceased in the incident, so it's very case-dependent and it's terrain-dependent," Valade said.

Avalanche Canada has also used a rescue at Cherry Bowl in the Shames Mountain ski area to come up with ideas around avalanche safety.

In March 2013, a group of skiers witnessed an avalanche that buried three people. They were trained in avalanche rescue and were able to dig out the people who were buried.

Valade emphasized the importance of training and education before heading into the mountains and said he hopes snowmobilers will take what they learn at these presentations and make different decisions if put in a similar situation.

Avalanche Canada will present its case study in Blue River on Feb. 17, in Clearwater on Feb. 18 and in Kamloops on Feb. 19.

With files from Daybreak Kamloops

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