‘It happened so quickly’: Nanaimo man survives large avalanche on North Island

'It happened so quickly': Nanaimo man survives large avalanche on North Island

Dave Loiselle was having the time of his life when he nearly died.

Fresh snow had just fallen on Mount Adrian, north of Mount Washington, so he and his friends hurried there with their snowmobiles.

“That morning was the first day that it had snowed in the season, like in weeks. Everybody was pretty excited to get out,” Loiselle told CHEK News from his Nanaimo hospital bed.

A “blue sky day” is how the Nanaimo man describes that Sunday, March 10.

The 33-year-old said he knew he’d have to watch for dangers since the avalanche threat was posted as high on Avalanche Canada.

But Loiselle says he had no idea when he ventured halfway up the mountainside, his friends watching on from below, that his whole life was about to change in an instant.

“It happened so quickly. It sounded like a gunshot, a rifle very clear and loud. I was looking across at the trees, and they started to go up the hill as I went down, and that’s when I realized the whole hill had let go and this was an avalanche, and I was coming down right in the middle of this giant hill,” Loiselle told CHEK News.

The avid snowmobiler had taken extensive avalanche survival training and had packed gear designed to save lives.

He told CHEK News he believes his survival atop Mount Adrian depended on one quick decision he made in pulling his avalanche bag.

“As my snowmobile started being sucked beneath, I stood up on it and grabbed my deployment handle from my avalanche bag, and then I just jumped into the snow, and that’s all I remember,” said Loiselle.

But pulling that cord for his avalanche airbag turned out to be critical. It pushed Loiselle to the top of the snow. Then, friends raced to him and dug him out within 10 minutes.

Once rescued, a satellite phone was used to call in a helicopter to medivac him to hospital, where he’s been recovering for four weeks.

“It’s still coming to me the significance of what happened. Like it’s definitely overwhelming at times,” said Loiselle.

According to Avalanche Canada‘s Colin Garritty, the Mount Adrian slide was significant.

“A very large avalanche, and definitely had the potential to bury, injure or kill someone, and they were recovered, from what we understand, partially buried but in the state of a critical burial, which meant their airway was below the snow,” Garritty told CHEK News Wednesday.

“So without their companions, there was definitely the potential for a much more tragic outcome.”

Loiselle is now recovering in hospital, where x-rays reveal bones were fractured, broken and dislocated from the force of the avalanche.

“So much force in there, the snow’s like concrete,” he said.

Yet Loiselle is already gaining strength and looking forward to getting back out on his snowmobile. He plans to encourage more riders to prepare with equipment and training that helped to save his life.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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