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Snowmobiler killed in avalanche near Kimberley

Members of Kimberley Search and Rescue have recovered the body of a snowmobiler, missing after a deadly slide southwest of the town.

The avalanche happened Saturday around 3 p.m., when a group of seven was traversing the backcountry.

They were on a memorial trip, in honour of another sledder who died in an avalanche in the same valley.

The victim was found 24 hours later under 1.5 metres of snow at the leading edge of the avalanche’s path, by crews who had been searching since dawn.

His body has been turned over to the provincial coroner service.

Peter Reid, President of the Kimberley Search and Rescue, immediately launched a rescue operation after the call came in, but dangerous conditions kept them from reaching the scene.

“It was too unsafe for the rescuers even to be there,” says BC Coroner Bar McLintock. “The Canadian Avalanche Centre, the search and rescue specialists and avalanche specialists had to go in and do some blasting (with explosives) just to make it safe.”

The region is slowly becoming infamous for its avalanches, after some deadly slides within the last few years including 2009 after a snowmobiler was buried for five minutes.

660News Meteorologist David Spence says the instability in the region shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

“What you get with the sunshine is that it melts the top layer of snow and then at night time it freezes but it doesn’t freeze back to snow, it freezes back to ice,” he explains. “So then you have an icy layer which then turns to melt the next day.”

Spence says the whole process leaves snow in the pack with nothing to stick to and it leads to slides across the Rockies.

“This will continue until there is no snow left in the area, this is what we can expect throughout the spring as temperatures in the daytime get above zero and then drop below freezing at night,” he says. “So you’re looking at some very hazardous situations.”

An RCMP spokesman says the victim was well prepared and came with all the necessary equipment.

Last week, the Canadian Avalanche Centre issued a special warning to backcountry enthusiasts about the considerable risk in the area.