Family, friends, community grieve Nelson, B.C., officer killed in avalanche

Const. Wade Tittemore, second from right, is pictured at an event commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Nelson Police Department on June 7, 2022.  (Supplied by the Nelson Police Department - image credit)
Const. Wade Tittemore, second from right, is pictured at an event commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Nelson Police Department on June 7, 2022. (Supplied by the Nelson Police Department - image credit)

A police officer from Nelson, B.C., who was killed in an avalanche this week is being remembered by friends, family and colleagues as a dedicated worker, respected mentor and devoted family man.

Const. Wade Tittemore, 43, died on Monday after being buried in an avalanche while skiing with a colleague on a mountain northwest of Kaslo, B.C., in the province's southeast.

Tittemore was married and had two elementary-school-aged sons.

"He just had a beautiful family," said Const. Adam Sutherland, who had worked with Tittemore since he joined the Nelson Police Department four years ago.

"For the majority of us that's probably the hardest part, is knowing that left behind from all of this is a young family that is going to be forever missing one of the greatest guys that I've had the pleasure of working with."

Tittemore and his colleague, Const. Mathieu Nolet, were swept away in the backcountry avalanche on Jardine SE3, a subsidiary peak of Mt. Jardine, on Monday.

Bystanders rescued Nolet, who had slammed into a tree, but Tittemore was buried under nearly two metres of snow. He had no vital signs by the time rescue crews reached him, officials said.

Supplied by the Nelson Police Department
Supplied by the Nelson Police Department

Sara Westnedge, who knew Tittemore through the daycare their families shared, said he always had time for his children.

"He was such a phenomenal dad. He was such a present father to his boys, and he gave them a lot of his time,'' she said Wednesday.

She said so many flowers have been sent to the Nelson police station that she dropped off a box full of vases to organize them.

"Everyone is just wrapping their arms around these officers, and being present for them, and trying to care for them,'' said Westnedge, who is also a pastor in the community.

"This is just an absolutely horrible thing to have happened. But I'm so proud of how our community is stepping up.''

Supplied by the Nelson Police Department
Supplied by the Nelson Police Department

Tittemore was a 15-year police veteran who worked for the Calgary Police Service before moving to Nelson. The Nelson force has just 20 officers, all well known across the mountain-oriented community.

"He was one of the friendliest, most empathetic guys that that I've ever had the pleasure of knowing and working with," said Sutherland.

"He came here with a wealth of knowledge and experience, so it was something that he was leaned on a lot for and respected a lot for."

Speaking Tuesday, Nelson police Chief Donovan Fisher said Tittemore will be missed terribly.

Westnedge said she has spoken to Tittemore's wife, who wanted to thank the search and rescue volunteers who responded to the avalanche near Goat Range Provincial Park — particularly the doctor who came to the scene.

Sutherland said both officers were the "breadwinners" in their respective families and the community has launched fundraisers to support their loved ones.

Fellow officers, including Sutherland, have been able to visit Nolet in hospital, where he was airlifted in critical condition with broken bones and internal injuries.

"Seeing him alive and seeing him talkative and making some jokes, being able to spend that time with him, was was an uplifting experience because we've had a lot of really bad news," Sutherland said.

Both Nolet and Tittemore were experienced skiers and were carrying personal locator beacons — satellite-synced devices that can send an SOS signal with your location to rescue agencies.

Avalanche Canada rated the slide as Size 3 — big enough to destroy cars or small buildings.

The agency has warned the snowpack in B.C. is dangerously unpredictable and unstable at the moment, and could catch even the most experienced backcountry users off guard.

WATCH | Nelson police chief speaks about the fatal avalanche: