Second officer dies in hospital after avalanche near Kaslo, B.C.

NELSON, B.C. — The second off-duty officer who was caught in an avalanche in the British Columbia Interior earlier this month has died from his injures.

Nelson Police Service Const. Mathieu Nolet suffered severe internal injuries and died Saturday morning in Kelowna's hospital, Chief Const. Donovan Fisher said in a video statement.

The officers were backcountry skiing near Kaslo, B.C., in a mountain pass 60 kilometres north of Nelson on Jan. 9 when they were swept down the mountain in a large avalanche.

Nolet managed to flag down a nearby group of skiers for help and they dug Const. Wade Tittemore, 43, out of the snow, but by the time rescue helicopters arrived, he had no vital signs.

Both men involved where experienced and well-trained backcountry skiers and outdoor enthusiasts with the proper equipment, probes and beacons with them, the chief said.

“Matt chose to live in Nelson, to have it as his home, because he loved the backcountry. He loved the community of Nelson. He loved all it had to offer. He will be greatly missed by all of us."

Fisher said the news, which closely followed Tittemore's memorial last Wednesday, is "devastating."

"Const. Nolet was a dedicated, caring and positive young officer with nothing but promise for the future in the Nelson Police Department," Fisher said in the video.

He said he visited Nolet in the hospital several times.

"He was upbeat and positive, as much as he could be given the circumstances," Fisher said.

"He passed away with his fiancée, his sister and his parents with him in Kelowna."

Nolet, who was 28, worked in Nelson for just over a year after serving for a year with the Calgary Police Service.

The Nelson Police Service has only 20 officers and the RCMP has been helping cover shifts.

On the day of the avalanche, Kaslo Search and Rescue manager Mark Jennings-Bates said several volunteers from their team helicoptered into the site when they were told two skiers had been caught in the slide.

He said a group of other skiers nearby were first on the scene after Nolet flagged them down for help.

They used avalanche beacons to find Tittemore, and Jennings-Bates said when their members arrived Tittemore had been dug out of the snow but had no signs of life.

The RCMP said that the men entered the area by snowmobile and then hiked to ski an alpine bowl.

Mayor Janice Morrison said the avalanche deaths are a tragedy.

"We are so fortunate to have our own police department where we get to know our officers day in day out on duty and off duty. This loss is going to resonate with all of our community," she said in the video, while sitting beside the chief.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issued a statement on Nolet's death, saying it's a tremendous loss for Nelson, and the government will support them to navigate through this difficult time.

"I also want to thank the first responders and health-care staff for their work responding to this tragic event. Our thoughts remain with the community through this time of grieving."

Calgary's police department also issued a statement saying it was saddened to hear of Nolet's passing. Both Tittemore and Nolet transferred to Nelson from Calgary's department.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2023.

The Canadian Press