January 30, 2016 12:39 pm
Updated: January 30, 2016 9:36 pm

Village is coming together after deadly avalanche: McBride mayor

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One day after an avalanche took the lives of five snowmobilers near McBride, B.C., the mayor of the community says it’s banding together.

“Any time people die, it’s tragic,” she said.

Loranne Martin visited the Sandman Inn Saturday morning to see how residents and other sledders were doing. The inn is a popular spot for snowmobilers.

Around 1:30 p.m. Friday, five people died in what appears to be a human-triggered avalanche in the Renshaw snowmobiling area, about 20 kilometres northwest of McBride. Two other people were injured, and one was sent to hospital in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries. RCMP said Saturday all those who were injured had been released from hospital.

The B.C. Coroners Service identified the men Saturday afternoon:

“There really wasn’t anything anyone could do,” Martin said. “It was a matter of calling the coroner and bringing the bodies out.”

READ MORE: Five dead after avalanche near McBride, B.C. 

“They were very prepared,” Dale Mason, manager for the Robson Valley Search and Rescue Team, said. “They were very experienced and prepared,” Cpl. Jay Grierson said.

RCMP said 17 people, making up four groups, were involved in the slide. Many of them were able to rescue themselves, RCMP said.

“I believe those groups… did a fantastic job,” Mason said. “They couldn’t have done anything better.”

Martin says snowmobiling is a big part of the village.

“It’s a huge industry here,” she said. “It’s our largest winter industry.

“As you can see, our mountains are beautiful, but they’re dangerous and risks come with it.”

Village councillor, Rick Thompson, says McBride will offer any support it can to those impacted by this loss.

“Whenever there’s an incident of this nature, the community really pulls together and tries to support the victims as well as the people involved in the search and rescue, RCMP,” Thompson said.

He said everyone is waiting for the latest information from the RCMP.

“It’s very tragic.”

“We are a very large snowmobile community,” Thompson said. “We have, for example, over 200 sledders who arrive on the Renshaw daily. It’s very devastating to have a fatality of this nature.”

Saturday morning, there were still many snowmobiles in hotel parking lots in McBride and riders getting ready to head out. One of them, Neil Petryshen, told Global News he doesn’t like to go sledding at Renshaw, describing it as an aggressive and advanced trail.

“Everybody sledding today will be a lot more cautious,” he said.

“I don’t want to go near there,” Brian Campeau said, referring to the spot where the avalanche was. Campeau drove from St. Paul with his son Donovan to sled in the Renshaw area.

Another sledder, Rock Major, agrees the news of the fatal slide is unnerving, but says he always goes with experienced sledders.

Jamie Pedersen and his son, who came from Edson, still planned to snowmobile at Renshaw Saturday morning. Jamie has an emergency beacon and an avalanche pack. He also tries to stay on flat trials and avoid the backcountry.

He says it’s horrible to know some sledders won’t be going home to their families.

“It’s awful,” Pedersen said. “You go out to have fun and you don’t get to go home, that’s a heck of a thing.

“You never know when your time is up,” he added.

READ MORE: Facts about snowmobiles and avalanches

The mayor says the weather conditions change quickly in the region.

Dale Mason, manager for the Robson Valley Search and Rescue Team, says there was no avalanche warning in effect Friday afternoon, but the danger “was considerable,” despite the clear weather at the time of the avalanche.

“That’s normal riding conditions this time of year,” he said.

With files from Julia Wong, Global News

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