UPDATE: RCMP said the 65-year-old driver was in cardiac arrest and CPR was started by the tour guide. Both the driver and his passenger, who was injured in the incident, were taken to hospital. The 65-year-old man did not survive.
A man is dead and another person is in hospital following a snowmobile crash in Whistler on New Year’s Day.
A 65-year-old Australian was riding a snowmobile down Blackcomb Mountain Friday evening as part of a tour organized by Canadian Wilderness Adventures when he veered off track and collided with a tree at around 11 p.m.
The snowmobile driver died at the scene and a 54-year-old female passenger was transported to Lions Gate Hospital.
RCMP say they do not believe speed was a factor, but it appears the driver failed to negotiate a turn on the unfamiliar trail and crashed 30 or 40 feet down the embankment.
Sources suggest the victim was on a four-hour tour that features a stop at a log cabin where food and wine are served to guests. The Coroners Service says toxicology tests will determine whether alcohol played a role in the crash.
In a statement, Canadian Wilderness Adventures offered condolences to family and friends of the victim.
WATCH: Global BC speaks with a woman who was on the same tour as the 65-year-old man who died in the accident
Kimberly Palmer was on the tour, behind the snowmobile that crashed, just a few minutes away from the base.
Palmer told Global News their group received a lot of training before the tour.
“There was a big open space where they had us practicing our S’s and our brakes, making sure we were really pumping them and not just holding down the brakes the whole time,” she says. “I think their training was more than adequate. I felt really secure on my snowmobile. It was a fun experience for me. It’s just was unfortunate that it happened to that couple.”
She says the snowmobile that crashed was trying to negotiate a relatively small turn that was not nearly as challenging as some of the other turns during their tour.
“I was looking at them and saying in my head — turn, turn,” says Palmer. “And then I was like, oh my God, they never turned. They just flew off the side.”
Palmer says the next thing she remembers is seeing the instructor turn back and everyone getting their flashlights out to look at the side of the embankment, where the two victims were later found.
Before the help arrived, Palmer says the instructor was helping with CPR, and a nurse, who happened to be on the tour, was also helping as best as she could.
“I think it was just a freak accident,” she says. “Everyone else was pretty secure on their snowmobile. They looked fine. They were shifty with the steering, but nothing super questionable or out of the ordinary.”
– With files from Julia Foy and Jon Azpiri
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