A second Nelson police officer has died after being critically injured in an avalanche while ski touring.
Const. Mathieu Nolet died Saturday morning at Kelowna General Hospital, according to a City of Nelson statement.
Nolet had been located alive at the site of the avalanche about 60 kilometres north of Kaslo on Jan. 9 while skiing off-duty with Const. Wade Tittemore, who was killed in the incident.
”It is hard to fully express the sadness we are feeling here,” Nelson Police Department Chief Donovan Fisher said in a statement. “The memorial for Const. Tittemore was this past week and now we’ve lost a second officer and friend. It is devastating.”
Nolet was 28 and was in the early years of his career. He had served with the Calgary Police Service for one year before moving to Nelson to join the municipal department just over a year ago.
“We have one of the smallest municipal police forces in the country,” said Mayor Janice Morrison. “This tragedy has hit us hard. Our deepest condolences go out to Const. Nolet’s family.”
Nolet’s death comes the same week a private funeral was held for Tittemore, 43, who was posthumously promoted to detective at the ceremony Wednesday. Tittemore left behind his wife and two young children.
The pair were experienced backcountry skiers.They were found by four people who had been staying at a nearby cabin. Nolet was rescued because his arm was visible above the snowline, and Fisher later said Nolet told him in the hospital he remembered being swept into a tree.
Tittemore meanwhile was dragged further down the mountain and died at the scene after being found underneath two metres of snow.
Fisher said Saturday that the department will be shut down to give members and staff time to grieve. RCMP officers have offered to handle calls for service in the interim.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth expressed his condolences in a statement and said the ministry will offer its support to the department.
“I also want to thank the first responders and health-care staff for their work responding to this tragic event,” said Farnworth. “Our thoughts remain with the community through this time of grieving.”
An online fundraiser for the families of Tittemore and Nolet had raised over $77,000 of its $100,000 goal as of Saturday.
Avalanche conditions at alpine and treeline elevations in the West Kootenay are ranked three out of five for danger or “considerable,” according to Avalanche Canada.
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