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B.C. heli-ski company fined $84,000 in avalanche incident that injured one, killed two

The penalty to Canadian Mountain Holidays GP Inc. came after it disturbed the scene of the incident and failed to report the injury to WorkSafeBC.
A helicopter prepares to land on Red Tit col in British Columbia's Tantalus Mountain Range. In 2023, avalanches killed 14 people in B.C.

A heli-skiing company has been fined more than $84,000 for failing to report an incident where a worker was “seriously injured” and two others died in an avalanche near Revelstoke, B.C.

WorkSafeBC imposed the penalty on Canadian Mountain Holidays GP Inc. in July 2023. In its findings, released to the public last week, the worker health and safety agency said the company failed to properly report the serious injury and disturbed the “scene before reporting the incident.” 

The incident occurred in the afternoon of Jan. 23, 2023, when an avalanche occurred on the Chocolate Bunny run near Mount McCrae, about 25 kilometres southeast of Revelstoke, according to documents and the company's marketing vice-president Julia LoVecchio.

Three people were caught in the slide. Two were fully buried and one was partially buried, she said. All were located by their transceivers and extracted from the snow, LoVecchio said in an emailed statement.

“CMH Guides attended to two guests who were unresponsive. The two guests were flown to Kelowna airport and transported to Kelowna General Hospital where both guests were pronounced deceased,” said the statement.

The third person, one of the company's guide, was later released from the hospital in stable condition.

“We called the WorkSafeBC claims line to report the incident with the best of intentions,” LoVecchio said.

“After the report had been received by [WorkSafeBC], we were advised to carry on with our regular protocols and mitigated the avalanche hazard around the site to enable a safe investigation.”

According to an inspection report seen by Glacier Media, CMH staff allowed people to trigger explosives at the scene of the avalanche in the days after the incident. The report said that the disturbance of the scene of an accident was done without the approval or direction of a peace officer or WorkSafeBC. 

LoVecchio said the company paid the fine and has since updated its protocols.

The heli-ski company says it began operations in 1965 under the name Bugaboos Canada Heli Skiing. It continues to primarily operate in that mountain range, a place known for its granite spires.

The penalty comes after a particularly deadly year for avalanches in B.C.

Avalanches killed 16 people across Canada in 2023. Of those deaths, 14 occurred in B.C., according to statistics from Avalanche Canada.