Five bodies recovered after 500-metre fall at Mt. Harvey
Published Sunday, April 9, 2017 10:50AM PDT
Last Updated Monday, April 10, 2017 7:51AM PDT
The bodies of five hikers who fell 500 metres down the north face of Mount Harvey were recovered Sunday, a day after plunging to their deaths on a group outing.
CTV News has learned that one of the victims was Yong Jun Sohn, a member of the MJM Hiking Club, which organized the outing. Sohn’s family says he went on weekly hikes with the group. The Vancouver Korean Hiking Club has identified Chung Ki Soo and Myung Sung Soo as two more victims who were also members of MJM.
Kim Ran Hee, and Sandul Baram were members of the Vancouver Korean Hiking Club, according to the group. It has up to 70 regular members.
The hikers fell onto the debris from an earlier avalanche after stepping out onto overhanging snow and ice that gave way. Officials confirmed that the victims died not because of an avalanche, but because of the fall.
“There have been a lot of avalanche runoffs in the area,” said Search Manager Martin Colwell, of Lions Bay Search and Rescue. “But that did not cause this particular accident. This was caused by the wind-created cornice that they fell off.”
Crews began combing an area near the base of the north face of the peak Sunday morning after five hikers from Metro Vancouver were reported missing.
Colwell told reporters at the start of the search that he expected the mission to be at least partially about recovering bodies, not rescuing survivors.
“We’re not ruling out the possibility that there could be live people at this point,” he said at the time. “Falling down a slope like that, it’s unlikely. One has to be realistic.”
The call about the incident came in shortly before 4 p.m. Saturday, from a member of the group of hikers who fell behind the rest of the group.
When he got to the summit, “he saw their tracks, but no sign beyond that,” Colwell said. “He checked the summit area and noticed that there was a big shear in the snow over the north face.”
The victims were members of a hiking club, Colwell said, and were “reasonably prepared,” carrying whistles and a GPS beacon, but not full avalanche gear.
“Really, for this mountain, for this time of year at that height, they should have had full avalanche gear,” he said. “They should have had avalanche beacons, shovels, and probes, per our normal advice to the public.”
Search and rescue efforts Saturday night were hampered by the instability of the snowpack in the area. Sunday morning, avalanche technicians were brought in to assess the area, before the search could begin.
In addition to Lions Bay Search and Rescue, groups from North Shore, Squamish, Coquitlam, Mission, and Chilliwack Search and Rescue organizations were involved, as well as the Squamish RCMP.
Colwell said the search was focused on an area at the base of the face, where crews had spotted debris. Rescuers brought avalanche dogs with them to assist in locating the bodies..
Avalanche Canada has a "considerable" danger rating at the alpine level for the region, but also warns "Observations from the region have been extremely limited recently."
Ilya Storm, a forecaster for Avalanche Canada, told CTV News it’s unusual to see cornices on B.C.’s South Coast. He said the formations can be extremely dangerous specifically because they don’t appear that way to people walking on top of them.
“On a province-wide scale, this is not the most obvious place for a cornice accident to have occurred,” he said. "They can be surprisingly big with a surprisingly wide danger zone. It can often be really appealing to travel in that danger zone because it's flat, because the snow's flat, because you don't realize you're in a danger zone when the edge is 10 metres away from you"