2 dead in avalanche near Columbia Icefield at Jasper National Park

EDMONTON — Two people have died in an avalanche on an Alberta mountain near the Columbia Icefield.

Steve Young, communications officer for Parks Canada, told CTV News Edmonton that a mountain-side avalanche occurred at Mount Andromeda.

There is no information about how the avalanche started.

No information about the victims has been released.

RCMP said they were informed of the avalanche by Parks Canada at 7:45 a.m. Sunday

Parks Canada and emergency crews commenced rescue efforts and ultimately extracted the two victims of the avalanche.

Mounties say it appears the victims were involved in recreational activities on the mountain before the avalanche occurred.

The bodies will be transferred to medical examiners to confirm identities.

No further details will be released as the investigation into the incident continues, RCMP say.  

Deborah Tetley, a communications officer with STARS, said a helicopter from Edmonton and two from Grande Prairie, Alta. were dispatched to the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre for reports of casualties from an avalanche.

Two helicopters deployed around 9 a.m. while the third was called out after 11 a.m.

Tetley told CTV News Edmonton that the helicopters were “not medically necessary” once they arrived on scene.

Young said while there is no indication of further avalanches, spring melting can rapidly change conditions.

Mount Andromeda is located within the Columbia Icefield on the boundary of Jasper and Banff National Parks. The mountain is located alongside Highway 93 near the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre.

Highway 93 was not affected by the avalanche and no buildings were damaged, Young said.

Sgt. Rick Bidaisee with Jasper RCMP told CTV News in an interview that Mounties initially asked for the assistance of multiple ground ambulances from nearby communities, Parks Canada visitor safety personnel, fixed wing medical aircraft from across the province, and STARS air ambulance.

While there were reports of other people on the mountain, crews determined there were two people unaccounted for.

“Initially, the thought process was that (there were) multiple patients and casualties,” Bidaisee said.

“We attended the location and determined that two persons using the area for recreational activities got caught up in an avalanche,” Bidaisee said. “Rescue efforts were undertaken.”

Bidaisee said that once officials located the two people they were pronounced dead on scene.

According to Bidaisee, Mount Andromeda is a popular destination for several recreation activities including skiing, climbing, and sightseeing.

“It’s a very popular area in Jasper National Park,” he said.

“Our hearts go out to the families,” Bidaisee added. “The people were out doing things that they loved and enjoyed. Unfortunately, tragic circumstances led to this end result.” 

More to come.

With files from CTV News Calgary’s Teri Fikowski

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