Vernon and North Okanagan News
Despite a heroic and miraculous recovery of a snowmobiler buried 15-feet in an avalanche on Saturday, RCMP confirm the Vernon man has succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
Castanet has learned that it was 34-year-old AJ Cleary who died Sunday after being rescued Saturday, spending nearly two-hours buried beneath the snow.
Clearly was a new dad to be and leaves behind his wife who is carrying their first child.
Bob Horkoff, owner of Keefer Lake Wilderness Resort, chatted with Castanet Sunday morning sharing the story of the miraculous rescue before it was announced that AJ had passed.
Saturday afternoon at around 3 p.m. a snowmobile pulled up in front of the Keefer Lake Wilderness Resort that Horkoff owns. He says it was a survivor of the slide requesting their help.
“One of the fellows pulled in, we know him, he is a regular guest here, and he informed us that there had been a major avalanche and one of their party was still buried,” said Horkoff.
There was a group of five experienced men sledding in the hills that day. Three of them stopped to wait for the other two to catch up when they were hit suddenly by the slide.
Horkoff says two of them managed to stay upright and self-rescue because they were able to deploy their air bags. The third disappeared underneath the snow.
His team immediately radioed for help from the local heliski company, Kingfisher, who sent their guide and a helicopter with a full trauma kit to the site for rescue.
Horkoff says the slide was about 10 kilometers east of the resort.
“We flew over the scene and it looked like a clear cut. What looked like 150 - 250 meters in height had released along about a 500-foot plane,” explained Horkoff.
“We immediately got to probing the area. Some of the group had been there for an hour already and thought they had a faint beacon signal. They had already dug down six feet at one location at the tree line.”
With that information and the new assistance on scene they were able to locate AJ buried 15-feet below the surface, at the deepest point a beacon signal could reach.
“He was just at the very extreme range of the beacon’s ability to detect and was out of the range of some of the actual probes we were using, but we managed to get him.”
After over an hour locating him it took about 45-minutes to get him out of the slide, Horkoff says at first he appeared deceased when they pulled him from the snow.
“The medi-ski guide and one of the other fellows there was a emergency room nurse from Vernon so between the two of the them they worked on him the whole time,” said Horkoff.
AJ was then transported via helicopter to waiting ambulance personnel who were able to revive him on route and take him to Kelowna General Hospital in serious condition.
“It was quite a scene, you know everyone remained calm, this a group of experienced guys that have been here for quite a few years doing the same thing.”
Horkoff says the group had no idea the avalanche would happen. He says they were at the valley bottom on a logging road waiting for the rest of their group to catch up when all of the sudden it released from above unexpectedly.
“Fortunately everybody knew what they were doing, everyone was equipped with the right equipment, and had beacons, so it happened as good as it could have happened under the situation. It is a testament to being prepared,” added Horkoff.
Vernon Search and Rescue were called for assistance but due to their response time Horkoff does not believe they would have been able to get there in time.
“Luckily we had the resources here and we were able to contact and get everybody together in time to get out there.”
Horkoff adds that the heliski company had been out that day in the area but had shut down because of adverse weather conditions.
“It was a pretty amazing and almost miraculous event that we were able to get him out and get him back. AJ was still buried when we got there,” said Horkoff, not yet knowing that AJ had passed away.
RCMP say the case has been turned over to the B.C. Coroners Service.
Recreating in the backcountry is a risky sport even for those that were prepared like this group.
For those heading into the backcountry the rating across the southern portion of the province remains between ‘3- Considerable (Dangerous avalanche conditions. Careful snowpack evaluation, cautious route finding and conservative decision making essential)’ and 4 - High (Very dangerous avalanche conditions. Travel in avalanche terrain not recommended). You can check current conditions at www.avalanche.ca
8 p.m. update:
On March 8, at about 3 p.m. the Vernon/North Okanagan RCMP detachment out of Lumby responded to a report of a snowmobiler caught in an avalanche near the Keefer Lake Resort.
Vernon Search & Rescue were deployed to the scene. The emergency services at resort assisted in the recovery of the 34-year-old resident of the North Okanagan.
The lone snowmobile rider was treated by ambulance personnel, and then air lifted to the Kelowna General Hospital where he is listed in serious condition at this time.
5 p.m. Update: Vernon Search and Rescue were called out to an avalanche Saturday afternoon by the RCMP.
The search team is responding to the incident near Keefer Lake. Crews were flown into the area and are on scene.
BC Ambulance has also been called to the staging area.
At least one person was rescued.
More details to follow.
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We don't know who just yet, but some lucky duck purchased a million dollar ticket in Vernon recently.
According to the BC Lottery Corporation website there were eight 'Maxmillionaire' winning tickets sold in the country and one of those winners was sold right here in the Okanagan.
The winning ticket, purchased in Vernon, has yet to be claimed and we are waiting for word from the BC Lottery Corporation on who the lucky ticket owner is.
If you purchased a Lotto Max ticket in Vernon for the Friday March 7 draw with the numbers 09 11 18 24 37 38 45, you may be a millionaire.
The $50 million dollar grand prize jackpot was not won, once again, meaning the pot will roll over to the next draw on Friday.
We will provide more details as they become available.
Were you the lucky Vernon winner? Or do you know who was? Email us at [email protected]
On March 4, Lumby RCMP received a report of an attempted B&E in the 700 block of Fraser Road.
The owner reported two nights earlier, his dog had alerted him someone was trying to break into his travel trailer.
The owner decided to sleep in it to see if they came back.
At about 1 a.m., he heard voices outside and someone appeared to be trying the lock.
The owner scared them off and they fled on foot and were not located.
All residents are reminded to keep doors and windows locked and be aware of all activities in your neighbourhood and report any suspicious people or activities in your area.
A 32-year-old Salmon Arm man is in police custody after a workplace incident in that community Friday morning.
RCMP and ambulance service personnel responded to a report of a stabbing in the Industrial Park area of Salmon Arm shortly after 11 a.m.
According to police a 34-year-old man had been stabbed by a co-worker.
"The victim was transported by air ambulance to Kamloops Regional Hospital but is expected to survive," says Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane.
Keane says police believe mental health issues are a factor in the incident.
The top two floors of Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s Polson Tower should will be completed in the fall of 2015.
“This latest announcement signals completion of the procurement stage of the project and we are eagerly anticipating construction to begin in the coming weeks,” said Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster.
Following the release of a Request for Proposals to a short list of proponents in September, Stuart Olson Dominion Construction Ltd, with Parkin Architects has been selected as the preferred design builder. The contract is for the final design and construction of two 30-bed inpatient units in the roughed-in shelled space on the sixth and seventh floors of the Polson Tower.
Construction is expected to start once initial planning meetings have occurred.
“We hear great things about the care provided at VJH,” said Interior Health Board Chair Norman Embree. “With completion of these new inpatient units, VJH will be well positioned to meet future demand for acute care in Vernon and the surrounding region.”
Of the 60 beds planned for the units, 14 will be new and the remaining 46 will be relocated from elsewhere in the hospital.
The project cost of $29.6 million is being shared between the Province, the North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap Regional Hospital District and the Vernon Jubilee Hospital Foundation.
“Our hospital plays a vital role in the community and completion of the sixth and seventh floors is going to provide additional capacity and overall improved care for patients. We are happy to see that construction start is now imminent,” said NOCSRDH Chair Rhona Martin.
The majority of the 60 beds will be in private rooms complete with their own washrooms. Units will be furnished with modern equipment through the Vernon Hospital Foundation’s ongoing Tower of Care campaign.
A 14-year-old girl is in hospital in Vernon after she was struck by a vehicle on hospital hill Thursday afternoon.
The collision occurred shortly before 2:30 p.m.
According to police the girl was trying to cross Highway 97 near Vernon Jubilee Hospital when she was hit.
Police indicate the driver of the vehicle, who is cooperating with authorities, did not see the girl until the last moment.
The girl was taken to VJH with what were thought initially to be quite serious injuries. Police now say those injuries don't appear to be as serious.
The girl is still being evaluated in hospital.
Southbound traffic on Hwy. 97 was backed up through Vernon as emergency personnel attended the victim. The two lanes heading south were closed for a short period of time.
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