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One person dead following avalanche in B.C.’s north

A file photo shows B.C. back country near Revelstoke after a January 2011 avalanche.

B.C. Ministry of Transportation/B.C. Ministry of Transportation

A 50-year-old surveyor has been killed after he was with another mine worker caught in an avalanche in northern British Columbia Tuesday afternoon, officials have confirmed.

The death marks the first fatality of the season.

The pair was taking GPS coordinates along a steep slope in a remote area near Sulphurets Creek, which is about 50 kilometres north of Stewart, B.C., when they were hit by the slide, according to RCMP Constable Lesley Smith. The local RCMP detachment, which is not far from the Alaska border, responded to a report that workers from a local minerals camp were caught in an avalanche around 3:50 p.m. on Tuesday.

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While one man was able to free himself – uninjured - from the debris, the other man was swept over a 300-metre cliff, Const. Smith said in a statement.

Avalanche technicians as well as search crews from a nearby mine helped locate the body of the deceased. His name has not been released.

The B.C. Coroners Service is now investigating, though there is nothing suspicious about this incident. Coroner Barb McLintock said while it's  "very early in the season" for an avalanche to claim a life, last year, the first fatality was reported in the middle of November, which officials considered to be rather early at the time.

Heavy snow has blanketed parts of Alberta and B.C. in the past few days.

"Obviously we're going to have to start thinking earlier about avalanches and start thinking avalanche safety," Ms. McLintock said.

"If you're going out in the snow – recreating as well as working – it's time to start thinking about the possibility that avalanches may start early this year," she added.

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Dawn Walton

Dawn Walton has been based in Calgary for The Globe and Mail since 2000. Before leaving Toronto to head West, she won a National Newspaper Award and was twice nominated for the Michener Award for her work with the Report on Business. More

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