National News

Father, son die in Lake Louise avalanche

A search and rescue helicopter flies over the Rokies in 2010 near Revelstoke, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh -
A search and rescue helicopter flies over the Rokies in 2010 near Revelstoke, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
— image credit:

By The Canadian Press

LAKE LOUISE, Alta. - A Parks Canada spokesman says the avalanche risk was high in an area where a father and son were killed when snow rushed down the slope where they had gone to toboggan in Lake Louise, Alta.

Banff National Park resource conservation manager Bill Hunt says RCMP requested the aid of Parks Canada Search and Rescue personnel to help look for the two on Saturday afternoon.

Hunt says a Parks Canada team found a partially buried toboggan in the avalanche debris/

It helped searchers locate the victims at the base of Mount Fairview on the shore of Lake Louise.

Mounties say the man, 33, and his son, 11, were from Montreal and may have been buried for almost a week.

Const. Phil Caza said the pair were reported missing Friday, but the last anyone recalled seeing them was on Sunday, March 9, when they rented the toboggan.

"We're still working to see if any hotel staff came in contact with them, but it's most likely it was the 9th," Caza said.

Caza said the slope where the pair were located can be accessed by walking on the frozen lake. He said it can even be seen from the Chateau Lake Louise hotel.

He said that after searchers found the toboggan partially sticking out from the snow, dogs were used to pick up the scent of the missing father and son and their bodies were then dug out.

The avalanche and its debris, he explained, had landed on the frozen lake. Water then pushed onto the surface and soaked the snow, later freezing.

The names of the victims are being withheld pending notification of their next of kin.

"They were on holiday. It's my understanding it's break time now for schools in Montreal," Caza said.

Hunt, meanwhile, noted the area where they were found is an "avalanche slope" and there are a number of avalanches in that area every year.

He said the avalanche hazard for that region of the park was rated as high, and it isn't in an area where Parks Canada does avalanche control work.

Hunt said it's believed they were not familiar with the area or the risk.

"In this case it would appear that we're dealing with someone who just had no idea even to need to ask for the information," Hunt said.

Parks Canada has taken efforts to make the avalanche risk known to visitors through additional signage, radio messages, and making avalanche forecasts available through hotels and equipment rental shops, Hunt said.

"That's something we've struggled with for a long time now," he added.

It's been a bad weekend for snow slides.

A 36-year-old man from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan died of injuries he suffered Friday night in an avalanche near Blue River, B.C., about halfway between Kamloops and Jasper, Alta.

And a 38-year-old man from Calgary was critically injured Saturday when he and some fellow skiers triggered an avalanche in Alberta's Banff National Park.

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