With files from Betsy Kline
Rossland Search and Rescue (RSAR) responded to a call at 6 p.m. on Tuesday after a skier was injured in an avalanche in the Plewman Basin.
An RSAR team of skiers and snowmobilers gathered on Highway 3B at the access point to Igloo cabin where the injured skier and his friends had taken shelter.
“It was difficult getting in there due to it was dark and the amount of snow that was there. Our snowmobile team members had a difficult time maneuvering through the timber, because they’re using their headlights and trees pop out of nowhere all of a sudden when you think you’ve got a path and they’ve got to keep up a certain amount of speed, otherwise they can’t climb in that amount of snow,” explained Graham Jones of RSAR.
In addition to a broken leg, the injured skier had facial injuries. He was safely transported back to the highway, where an ambulance waited to transport him to the hospital.
The call was RSAR’s second of the day. The team also assisted in locating a deceased snowmobiler from Castlegar who was killed in an avalanche near Mount Mackie.
“Our guys left at about seven o’clock Tuesday morning and didn’t get back until late afternoon, probably five or six o’clock in the evening, to put all that equipment away and go home and get some rest, but it didn’t happen. We had another call right away,” said Jones. “We were able to get some fresh people for the second call.”
The snowmobiler has been identified as Daniel Joseph Davidoff, aged 45, of Castlegar. He was reported overdue from a day-long solo excursion near Castlegar at approximately 10 p.m. Monday. Castlegar RCMP immediately activated the Castlegar Search and Rescue (SAR) team, who called on other local SAR teams for assistance.
Friends of Davidoff had already headed out to the scene to begin a search beginning at the known starting point. The group went out on snowmobiles and after about eight kilometres came across an avalanche runout near College Creek forestry road. They were able to locate the sled, but conditions were dark, snowy and cold and they were not able to locate Davidoff.
Due to avalanche conditions and safety, SAR teams met at first light on Tuesday morning and began operations. All told, four SAR teams (Castlegar, Rossland, South Columbia and Nelson) participated in the search consisting of 38 personnel, two helicopters, ten snowmobiles and two dog teams. They were joined by numerous volunteers.
Two CAA level 3 technicians were flown in to evaluate the avalanche slope and conditions. According to a South Columbia Search and Rescue press release, “It was determined that the slope and avalanche runoff were unsafe. Our CAA techs set off three separate charges to clear the area of danger so we could begin our searching. Our personnel were staged a short distance away from the avalanche location while the CAA techs cleared the area for entry.”
Unfortunately, Davidoff was found deceased approximately two metres below the surface of snow. With the assistance of High Terrain Helicopters, SAR was able to recover him within about two and a half hours.
Davidoff was an avid snowmobiler who was well known and admired throughout the snowmobile community, not just locally, but throughout western Canada and the western United States. By Tuesday evening, Facebook was flooded with condolences, memories and videos marking his passing.
Davidoff, whose nickname was the Krazy Canadian, was featured in several snowmobiling movies produced by Thunderstruck Films. In a clip Thunderstruck posted on Facebook, he was talking about his love of the sport. “For me, it’s all about the adrenaline rush. Pure and straight, I love the rush I get when I take it to the edge of destruction and glory.”
Mike Hudson, president of South Columbia Search and Rescue, wants to stress that conditions are horrible at this time and that’s why there have been multiple avalanches. With the changing temperatures and continued fresh snow and freezing, it has become very dangerous. Those going out on the mountains should use extra caution and have safety gear with them.