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B.C. police officer killed in avalanche identified

"Nelson is one of the smallest municipal police forces in Canada, and we are like one big family."

The identities of two off-duty police officers involved in a fatal avalanche near Kaslo on Monday have been released.

Const. Wade Tittemore with the Nelson Police Department (NDP) was caught in an avalanche while out backcountry skiing some 60 kilometres north of Nelson and died. The 43-year-old was with Const. Mathieu Nolet, 28, who survived the accident, but is in critical condition with internal injuries and broken ribs.

A statement from the City of Nelson says Tittemore had been with the force for four years and before that was with the Calgary Police Service for 11 years. He leaves behind a wife and two sons.

“Nelson is one of the smallest municipal police forces in Canada, and we are like one big family. The impact of the death of Constable Tittemore has a profound effect on the force and our community,” said NPD Chief Donovan Fisher in a statement.

“Our deepest condolences go out to his family.”

Fisher added the RCMP will be covering shifts for the Nelson Police Department and other departments from around the province have also offered help. 

Janice Morrison, Nelson's mayor and chair of the Police Board, said "a tragedy like this deeply affects us all." 

“Officers in a city the size of Nelson are part of the community and make connections with people, both on and off the job,” she said.

RCMP Sgt. Kris Clark says the pair snowmobiled up to Empire Cabin, west of Buchanan Mountain, and hiked to a ski bowl in the alpine. 

Kaslo Search and Rescue was called out by RCMP just after 12 p.m. Monday. Avalanche Canada's website says a size 3 avalanche had been triggered by humans on a slope. The organization says the deceased was buried in 1.5 to two metres of snow.

“Initial evaluations led us to believe that we had access issues in high-risk avalanche terrain,” says a spokesperson. “Our team immediately mobilized our winter response specialists and avalanche technicians who completed a risk assessment of the terrain by helicopter before determining it was safe to land on scene.”

A second helicopter was also deployed with the Regional Long Line Team; a trauma physician, a member of Nelson Search and Rescue, also attended.

A bystander had cellphone service on the mountain and aided the response of SAR during the rapidly evolving situation.

“The level of seriousness was increasing throughout the operation as we continued to receive updates. Complicating the operation was the restriction of helicopters being unable to fly past daylight hours,” says a spokesperson.

Meanwhile, a ground SAR evacuated all members from the mountain.

Condolences continue to pour in online for the two officers.

“The Nelson Police Board, the City of Nelson, and the Nelson Police Department offer their condolences and support to the families at this time,” states a spokesperson.

B.C. Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth also gave his condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the officers.

“On behalf of all British Columbians, we send our deepest condolences to everyone affected by this tragedy. Our thoughts are also with the officer who was critically injured, and we wish them well as they begin to recover,” said Farnworth.

He also thanked the first responders and all those who responded to the rescue operation.

“This is a tremendous loss for Nelson and for policing in British Columbia, and we are here to support the Nelson Police Department and the City of Nelson in this difficult time,” the minister said.

Supports are being offered through the city and the police department.

Anyone wishing to send condolences can email Tittemore's family at [email protected].