Hikers who died at Shannon Falls identified as social media stars
Two of the hikers who died after falling into fast-moving water over a water fall north of Vancouver have been identified as a controversial video blogger and his girlfriend.
Social media posts identified the people whose bodies were removed Wednesday from a pool above Shannon Falls as Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh and Megan Scraper.
The third person was identified previously as Charles Ryker Gamble.
Lyakh and Gamble made up half of Vancouver-based "High on Life SundayFundayz," a group of travel video bloggers who posted their adventures on YouTube for their following of nearly 500,000. They also shared their content on Facebook and Twitter. Their Instagram account boasts 1.1 million followers.
The group's goal is to "inspire our viewers to get out and explore the world," they say on their YouTube page.
"If you can you should."
While many have commented that their exploits did indeed inspire them to travel, the group is not without controversy.
The High on Life foursome made headlines two years ago when they left the boardwalk at Yellowstone National Park and wandered into a protected hot spring to take photos. After apologizing publicly, Gamble and Lyakh were sentenced to seven days in jail and about US$2,000 in fines and fees for convictions including disorderly conduct.
Scraper, who goes by "Mindy" on Instagram, is also well known online. Her account, "mindythelion," has about 173,000 followers.
She's often featured on the High on Life account as well.
The coroner is investigating whether they were shooting a video when the accident happened.
Their bodies were found following an extensive search by air and on land, after friends called 911 to report they'd been swept away by the water Tuesday around noon.
"They went into one of the pool systems that's up there to go swimming and three of them were walking along the edge of where the pool would be and at that stage they slipped and fell," Cpl. Sascha Banks said.
The fall was the equivalent of 10 storeys, officials said.
Whistler videographer Zachary Moxley posted to Facebook, saying, "I watched nature take the lives of three of my close friends. It was one of the most gut-wrenching situations I've been a part of."
They were found with the use of an underwater camera late Tuesday night, but because of the challenging terrain, it took recovery crews until after 5 p.m. the following day to recover their bodies.
Following the identification of the hikers, tributes for the members of the group and for Scraper poured in on social media.
"Your positive energy helped to make this world better," one person wrote on their YouTube page.
Several posted that they felt heartbroken by the news.
"A beautiful, incredibly talented group of people who were living their life to the very fullest. So sorry," another posted.
Others said their heart went out to family and friends affected by the tragedy, and that their deaths served as a reminder.
"In reality, this could happen to any of us – as tragic and heartbreaking as this is, it will serve as a lesson to us all – be safe on your travels," YouTube user Travel in Twos posted.
"RIP guys and thank you for inspiring me and countless others to embrace life's opportunities with a positive outlook and (to) pursue our dreams."
A media educator had a similar message about learning from tragedy.
"Young people might look at something they see on YouTube and say, 'I can make that video, so I'm going to go out and do this high-risk behaviour, document it and see if I can garner an audience and have it go viral,'" Mediated Reality's Jesse Miller said.
"But the reality is any time you have stories like this there are learning opportunities, there are conversations that need to happen."
Miller said people have always engaged in risky behaviour, but now a potential audience of millions is added encouragement. Incidents such as what happened near Shannon Falls are opportunities to discuss the possible consequences.
"When it comes down to safety… it not only impacts you. It also impacts your friends and the community. At the same time, if you need to be rescued, the people who volunteer their time, who serve communities, who come and rescue anybody no matter where they are, they put their lives in danger to get to you."
With files from CTV Vancouver's Penny Daflos