Three victims of a deadly avalanche in southeastern British Columbia have been identified as German citizens.
The German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur says the mayor of the municipality of Eging, east of Munich, has confirmed the three men were from Germany and two were residents of his small Bavarian town.
Mayor Walter Bauer told the news agency that the other man was from Munich.
RCMP say nine foreign visitors and their Canadian guide were engulfed by the avalanche Wednesday.
Police have not released the nationalities or hometowns of the six visitors who survived.
Avalanche Canada has warned about an extremely unstable snowpack across most of B.C. this season.
It described the avalanche as a class 3, meaning it was large enough to destroy a building and break trees.
‘Shakes the entire community’
The avalanche happened near Panorama Mountain Resort just outside of Invermere, B.C., in the B.C. Rockies which attracts hundreds of international tourists every year.
Mayor Allen Miller said the community of nearly 4,000 people was largely quiet following the tragedy.
“People are, I think, in shock at what’s happened,” he said.
Marco Drees, a German tourist, who was scheduled to take a heli-skiing tour before it was cancelled following the avalanche deaths says he can’t help but feel like it could have been him caught in the mountains.
“[If] we arrived one day early … it would have been our accident,” he said.
Watch | Heli-sking company speaks after avalanche deaths:
Tom Brinkerhoff, president of RK Heliski, told the media on Thursday it was the “saddest day ever,” saying guests and guides who ski with them each season are part of their family.
“It is impossible to put into words the sorrow that we feel and the sadness that is shared by our guests, their families and all of our staff,” said Brinkerhoff.
The community is in the riding of Columbia River-Revelstoke, represented by member of the legislature Doug Clovechok.
He told the B.C. legislature on Thursday that one of those injured was a guide leading a group of international visitors skiing at the Panorama resort.
“Panorama ski patrol and local search and rescue crews carried out the effort to locate and free the victims and work with B.C. Emergency Services to get the injured to hospital,” he said.
Clovechok said the dozen avalanche deaths this winter make it one of the worst seasons in decades in the province.
“When these tragedies occur, it shakes the entire community,” he said as his voice cracked with emotion. “And I know right now, there is deep sadness.”
He said their hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones, and those who survived the frightening event.
Clovechok added that last month, an experienced search and rescue volunteer died in a B.C. avalanche while off duty, and her teammates with Cariboo search and rescue had to carry her body out.
“Even the most experienced backcountry skier can encounter trouble. It’s vital that people check the warnings, carry the right gear and be mindful of the dangers that come out there.”
Susan Clovechok, Doug Clovechok’s spouse and an area director with the Regional District of East Kootenay, said she knows the skiers are all foreign nationals, but there is no official confirmation from the RCMP about their nationalities.
She said she has spent a lot of time since the avalanche phoning people whose relatives were involved in the tragedy to support them.
This is the sixth deadly avalanche in B.C. since the season started in November.