EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World News

March 15, 2010

At least 2 snowmobilers die in Canadian avalanche

REVELSTOKE, British Columbia (AP) — An avalanche that killed at least two people at an informal snowmobile rally in Canada's Rocky Mountains may have been triggered by three daredevil sledders who apparently unleashed a deadly wall of snow on up to 200 people below, witnesses said yesterday.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said an even worse tragedy may have been averted because many of the snowmobilers had come equipped with avalanche recovery equipment and dug people out even before rescuers arrived at the scene.

RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk told a news conference yesterday that two men are confirmed dead, not three as reported earlier in the chaotic hours after the slide. Moskaluk said they've managed to find almost everyone who registered for the event and most got off the mountain safely.

Moskaluk said the avalanche was "human triggered" and said all aspects of the incident and the deaths will be investigated by police and the coroner's office.

He did not say there will be no more bodies found, but he said RCMP have not had any further reports of people who remain missing and they believe they have an accurate list of participants. The slide struck around 3:30 p.m. Saturday on Boulder Mountain.

He said 30 people were injured, including one person in critical condition and three others in serious condition who were taken to regional hospitals. Nineteen people were treated and released at the local hospital.

Despite avalanche warnings, about 200 people had gathered on the mountain for the Big Iron Shoot Out, an annual unsanctioned event known for its party atmosphere and stunt riding that has become popular among people who enjoy snowmobiling in the deep snow of back country British Columbia.

Two men who witnessed the avalanche said it hit so many people in part because a crowd had stopped at the bottom of the mountain to watch three snowmobilers perform a stunt known as high-marking — a contest to see who can race up a slope and leave the highest mark.

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