Three men were caught in an avalanche that claimed two lives in Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park at Haines Pass near the Alaska border in British Columbia on Monday.
The avalanche occurred around 1:30 pm, and Zane Durr and Matthew Green, both 21, died in the slide, according to Al Giddings, Haines Volunteer Fire Department chief. The third person, a 16-year-old boy, survived the slide.
The three snowboarders had been hiking up an NNE slope at around 3,300 feet near the Haines Highway, according to preliminary information from Avalanche Canada. Two-thirds of the way up, a slab avalanche about 5 feet deep and 60 to 330 feet wide was triggered and ran nearly 500 feet. Two of the men were fully buried and the third partially buried. He was able to self-rescue and call for help, according to Avalanche Canada.
Daniel Dreiseitl told the CBC that on his way home from a day of skiing nearby, he saw someone waving his arms and the remnants of an avalanche about 650 feet from the road, reports the ADN.
“He mentioned that he saw some cracks in the snow but they didn’t pay attention to that,” Dreiseitl told CBC. “Then when they were standing and chatting and looking around, it was at that time that they triggered the avalanche.”
The exact cause of the deaths was still being investigated. Avalanche danger ratings are high in many parts of BC, but Avalanche Canada does not post a rating specifically for Haines Summit or for the Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park area, because the remote location makes it difficult to collect necessary data.
The deaths are the first avalanche fatalities of the season in Canada, which had 12 fatalities during the 2018-19 season, according to Avalanche Canada. The majority of deaths occur in BC. This brings the total of deaths in North America to six this winter season.