Chances of surviving plummet after 10 minutes: avalanche researcher

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WATCH ABOVE: Karl Klassen, an Avalanche Canada official, comments on the investigation into the avalanche incident near McBride – Jan 30, 2016

MCBRIDE, B.C. – A leading expert says that after 10 minutes of being trapped in an avalanche, chances of survival drop dramatically as the snow hardens like concrete.

Five snowmobilers died Friday in a major avalanche near the interior community of McBride, B.C.

READ MORE: 5 dead after avalanche near McBride, B.C. 

Pascal Haegli is Simon Frasier University’s research chair in avalanche risk management. He says it’s nearly impossible to dig yourself out of an avalanche once you’ve been buried, and that without proper rescue equipment, chances of survival nearly disappear.

He says that people should not rely on search and rescue crews in the event of an avalanche.

READ MORE: Village is coming together after deadly avalanche: McBride mayor 

Karl Klassen, of Avalanche Canada, said Friday that the avalanche appears to have been human-triggered, but he did not elaborate.

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A spokesperson told Global News on Saturday that conflicting reports were coming in quickly right after the incident. After initially stating it was human triggered, Avalanche Canada modified its statement to say it “appeared to be human triggered” based on the information it currently has. Investigators are on scene Saturday and expect to have more information later in the day.

Haegli says that he hasn’t heard exactly what happened in this case, but that human-triggered avalanches can occur when people disturb different layers of snow, called snowpack. For instance, if
a thin layer of icy snow sitting on top of looser snow is disturbed, it can cause all the snow to tumble down.

With files from Global News

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