3 dead in avalanche near Invermere, B.C.

An avalanche near Invermere, B.C. swept away a heli-skiing group Wednesday, killing three people, Mounties say.

In a statement Thursday morning, Columbia Valley RCMP says 10 people were caught up in the avalanche at approximately 12 p.m. which was triggered in the area of Panorama Mountain Resort.

Four other skiers were injured and police say some are in serious condition but are believed to survive. Three were uninjured.

RCMP Corp. James Grandy tells CityNews everyone in the group was flown to Invermere Hospital, adding all of the skiers are foreign nationals, except for the guide.

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Grandy says it was a local heli-skiing company involved in the tragedy, “but beyond that, I’m not really sure.”

Police aren’t releasing the names or details of those people who died, as they’re actively working on notifying next of kin Thursday, Grandy says, with the help of local embassies.

Grandy notes that due to the remoteness of the area, along with the high risk of avalanche, regarding a possible investigation, “I don’t think there will be a necessity for anybody to go back up there at this point.”

In an email to CityNews, BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) says it received a call around 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, roughly 30 kilometres southwest of Invermere.

BCEHS adds it responded with four ambulances, which then transported four patients to helicopters in Invermere. Paramedics assessed and cared for the patients, they were then transported to hospital.

Grandy says responding to the call was a coordinated effort.

“Numerous emergency resources, including support from search and rescue, police dogs services, and other RCMP officers, and BC ambulance helicopters attended to the area,” he explained.

Grandy adds conditions have been especially dangerous this year when heading out of bounds in B.C.’s mountain backcountry.

“There’s been numerous warnings and information being put out by various organizations and the government on the fact that out-of-bounds skiing, and that, is extremely dangerous, especially this year,” he said. “The avalanche risk is so severe, so unfortunate that this group still got caught up in that.”

Panorama Mountain Resort wouldn’t comment to CityNews on the incident, but did say mountain crews assisted in a rescue outside their jurisdiction.

Avalanche-related deaths and injuries have been prominent in B.C. in 2023, with this death making it at least 12 people in the province who have lost their lives in avalanches this year.

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