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Heavy Snow Delays Search For B.C. Skier Blizzard Also Prevents Crews From Removing Bodies Of Five Other Skiers Killed In Avalanche

Heavy snow delayed the search Sunday for a missing skier and the removal of the bodies of five other skiers near here. The five were among at least eight people killed in three separate avalanches in southeastern British Columbia since Friday.

Of the dead, all were skiers except for one snowmobiler. All victims identified by late Sunday were British Columbians.

Search and rescue crews here were waiting Sunday for a break in the weather and also were concerned about high avalanche danger in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, about 40 miles north of Nelson, British Columbia, where the skier is missing.

Much of the mountainous backcounty is accessible only by helicopter.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable Jay Arnold said teams may have to trigger avalanches first to make it safe to recover the bodies, which were found Saturday, and to continue the search.

He said winds up to 50 mph and a blizzard raged across the Selkirk Mountains on Sunday morning.

“Our priority remains the persons going in there,” said Rod Salem of the Provincial Emergency Program. “We’ll try to go in, but I can’t say for sure we will.”

Terry Jones, owner of the Woodbury Resort which is serving as rescue operation headquarters, said one of the victims in the party of six was a doctor from Vancouver and another was from North Vancouver.

The skiers were friends who were spending the week together at Silver Spray cabin near the Woodbury Glacier. The only access to the Silver Spray cabin is by helicopter.

The skiers were reported missing Friday after they had failed to return to their mountain cabin. They had been advised the day before of high avalanche danger, the RCMP said.

The avalanche occurred about a half mile east of the cabin.

Meanwhile in New Denver, about 30 miles northwest of Kaslo, searchers recovered the bodies of two skiers killed in an avalanche on Mount Alwyn on Friday. Police earlier had identified them as snowmobilers.

Kevin Alexander Jewitt, 27, and Simon Horton Lewis, 26, of Lemon Creek in the Slocan Valley in southeastern British Columbia, were killed when an avalanche buried them after they had skied to the bottom of a mountain bowl.

Their six companions skied after them and immediately dug them out, but the men already were dead, said constable Wally Beatty of the New Denver RCMP. They all were experienced backcountry skiers and were wearing location transceivers.

Beatty wouldn’t comment on whether the skiers should have been on the mountain.

“The coroner will be making an investigation as to the snow conditions and the hazards at the time of the accident, so I can’t really comment,” he said.

Alan Dennis of the Canadian Avalanche Center in Revelstoke, British Columbia, said mountains were not closed to skiers, but he warned that avalanche danger is high.

An Alberta snowmobiler was killed in the Sparwood area near the British Columbia and Alberta borders.

Murray Gray Perrin, 37, of Medicine Hat, died Friday afternoon when four snowmobilers were caught in an avalanche.

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