Two Haines, Alaska, men have died after a Dec. 30 avalanche at the Haines Summit.
BC Coroners Service spokesperson Andy Watson confirmed the two men were in their early 20s and snowboarding in British Columbia’s Tatshenshini-Alsek Park between Haines Junction and Haines, Alaska.
Both an emailed statement by Watson and a press release from Atlin RCMP said the identities of the deceased would not be released or confirmed due to the privacy of the deceased, with Watson pointing to the Coroners Act in B.C. and provincial privacy legislation.
The BC Coroners Service is investigating the deaths “to determine how, where, when and by what means they came to their deaths”, Watson noted.
In a press release dated Dec. 30, the Haines, Alaska, volunteer fire department said the Haines Search and Rescue Company were notified at 1:38 p.m. (12:38 p.m. PST) that RCMP got a signal from an SOS emergency locator about 9.6 kilometres west of the Three Guardsmen mountain in the Haines Pass.
“Canadian authorities immediately coordinated the rescue operation and dispatched the Haines Junction Search and Rescue team, RCMP, emergency support and a rescue helicopter to the scene,” the fire department stated.
Shortly after arriving, authorities reported one of the three in the group was in their care. The other two were confirmed deceased.
Arrangements will be made to transport their bodies back home to the United States, the fire department stated.
“Our prayers are with all members of their families and our hearts are broken in their loss,” the press release concluded.
In a Facebook post sharing the fire department’s release, officials with the Haines Avalanche Centre extended its condolences to the families as well.
“It’s a very sad day in Haines. Our love and support goes out to the families involved. Avalanche Canada is on site to gather information about the avalanche itself, and will be sharing more details pertaining to public safety if they can. We will share any new details as they become available.”
James Minifie, a Yukon avalanche field technician for Avalanche Canada, said in a Dec. 31 interview that both the Haines Summit and White Pass have seen stormy weather in recent weeks which has contributed to increased avalanche risk.
Increased snow and wind in the area are anticipated to continue with the avalanche rating expected to remain moderate to high.
It’s important those considering going to areas like the Haines Summit or White Pass recognize that such areas are remote and they should ensure they have the right equipment — an avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe, satellite communications device — when they go.
It’s also important to check avalanche websites for the danger rating in the area before they go and have a trip plan in place with others aware of where those plans.
Minifie also issued a reminder that even if there has been a slide in an area, it does not eliminate the possibility of another slide even just hours later depending on conditions. He pointed out even areas that are close to highways can experience avalanches.
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