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Five dead in avalanche near McBride, B.C.: provincial coroner's service

Last Updated Jan 29, 2016 at 10:46 pm EDT

MCBRIDE, B.C. – Five snowmobilers have died in a “very large” avalanche near the interior community of McBride, B.C., prompting a rescue and recovery operation.

The McBride RCMP said Friday evening it was co-ordinating the search for a number of snowmobilers who were involved in the fatal avalanche in the Renshaw area east of McBride, which is about 210 km southeast of Prince George.

Mounties said they were notified early Friday afternoon of two separate GPS beacon activations in the area and activated the Robson Valley Search and Rescue Team.

One helicopter was dispatched to the area to assist, and two search and rescue technicians were on scene almost immediately as they were snowmobiling in the area just prior to the slide occurring, police said.

Rescue crews quickly confirmed that the incident involved at least three separate groups of snowmobilers caught in an avalanche, and they assisted with the rescue of several people throughout the afternoon and tended to the search for people believed to have been buried, RCMP said.

“As of 6 p.m. the McBride RCMP is able to confirm that 5 snowmobilers are deceased and have been recovered from the avalanche area,” said Cpl. Dan Moskaluk in a statement.

“Efforts by the RCMP and SAR are continuing in making a determination that all other snowmobilers that were in the area are accounted for. Six to eight other snowmobilers lost snowmobiles in the avalanche and are being shuttled off of the mountain.”

He added that McBride RCMP were being assisted by Valemount RCMP and the B.C. Coroners’ Service has been notified.

Barb McLintock of the B.C. Coroners Service said Friday evening that two coroners had been dispatched from Prince George, B.C.

Karl Klassen of Avalanche Canada said the “very large, significant” avalanche appears to be human-triggered, but he did not elaborate.

“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 followed by clearing and cooling today,” he said in a statement.

“This may have produced stresses in the snowpack capable of producing large avalanches and this condition could take several days to settle and bond.”

He is warning people to be cautious this weekend.

RCMP said no further information would be released pending the completion of the search effort and completion of notification of next of kin.