Company issues recall of avalanche beacon that backcountry users allege is 'faulty'
VANCOUVER -- The North American distributor of an avalanche beacon has issued a “voluntary recall” of the product after two skiing accidents in B.C., one of them fatal.
It’s a move that backcountry advocates and those around them have been calling for for years, saying the device is “faulty.”
In 2017, Corey Lynam died after being caught in an avalanche while skiing in the backcountry near Whistler.
Lynam was wearing a Pieps DPS Sport transceiver but it wasn’t sending a signal, making it near impossible for search crews to find him in time.
His widow, Brianne Howard, believes the device switched off while Lynam was in the avalanche.
The coroner’s report confirmed this.
“It appears that Mr. Lynam’s movements/impacts somehow defeated the locking mechanism/effected the beacon switching from its’ send to search mode,” meaning the device was no longer sending a signal.
A group of professional skiers say the same thing happened to Nick McNutt when he was caught in an avalanche in 2020. He was also wearing the same device.
In March, McNutt was going for his second lap through a remote valley near Pemberton. A sudden avalanche pushed him into a tree, sweeping him underneath the snow.
His friend, Ian McIntosh, says McNutt’s beacon wasn’t sending a signal, so the group had to poke through the snow hoping to find him.
“There was moments when I thought we were going to lose Nick,” McIntosh said. “When you don’t have a signal, you don’t plan for that, we hadn’t trained in the past because that's supposed to be your fail safe in the worst case scenario...”
This week the North American distributor, Black Diamond, announced on its Instagram page it was starting a “voluntary product recall.” Adding it will be releasing details of the program in the coming weeks.
It comes after the manufacturer, Austrian company Pieps, announced what it calls, a “voluntary product correction program” which essentially offers users a new hard case for the device.
“The correction consists of a new hard case carrying system to ensure that the DSP PRO, DSP PRO ICE and DSP SPORT avalanche transceivers are set to “send” mode before use, and remain locked in “send” mode during use,” the company website says.
The posting goes on to say that Pieps has received a number of inquiries about the devices and the locking system. “We believe these inquiries were prompted by two avalanche accidents: one in 2017 and one in spring 2020,” reads the post.
Howard believes the company is doing everything it can to avoid saying the device is faulty.
“They haven’t actually fully admitted that there's a design flaw … but at the same time, (they are) introducing this (hard case) mechanism which prevents it (from) doing the exact thing that we’ve been saying it does this whole time.”
CTV News Vancouver reached out to both companies to ask if there was a design flaw but has not yet received a response.
However, the Pieps website says “tests have shown that the lock/switch mechanism on the DSP PRO, DSP PRO ICE and DSP SPORT meets all relevant safety standards.”
McIntosh also believes the move comes too late, he and other professional skiers have been posting about the device on their social media for almost a year.
“It is really sad though that it took a bunch of influencers to drive this change instead of doing it back in 2017 when ... Corey (Lynam) died,” he said.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Angela Jung