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Autopsy today on skier who died in backcountry



An autopsy will be performed today on the body of 44-year-old Marie-Josee Fortin, who died after spending more than one week with her husband in the rugged wilderness near Golden, B.C.


27/02/2009 1:01:50 PM




A family photo obtained by The Globe and Mail shows Marie-Josee Fortin, left, and Gilles Blackburn, right, with their son's girlfriend Amelie Jeanneau, second left, their son William Blackburn and their daughter Laurence Blackburn.

CTV.ca News Staff


Gilles Blackburn, 50, was rescued Tuesday but his wife had already died two days earlier.


The autopsy results will help confirm how Fortin died, although it's presumed she likely died from exposure.


"We anticipate having those results by week's end or early next week," RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk told CTV's Canada AM on Friday.


On Feb. 15, Blackburn and Fortin found themselves lost after going out of bounds while backcountry skiing at the Kicking Horse resort.


Two days later, a ski guide spotted an SOS signal that the couple had marked in the snow.


The Golden and District Search and Rescue team and Kicking Horse resort were alerted. But a search of the resort parking lots for abandoned vehicles turned up nothing.


The couple had parked their vehicle in underground parking, which was not searched. Officials also found nothing after searching for missing ski rental equipment and missing persons reports from local hotels. The Golden RCMP detachment was not contacted.


On Feb. 21, two more SOS messages were found by ski groups and RCMP were called. They contacted Kicking Horse, who told them that the signal had already been investigated.


On Feb. 23, the missing couple's family filed a missing persons report after the pair failed to return to their home in the Montreal suburb of Lasalle.


The next day search and rescue was finally dispatched after a man waving his arms was spotted by a helicopter. Within an hour, Blackburn was rescued and his wife's frozen body was recovered.


On Thursday, the RCMP said it was in "error" for not launching a search operation soon after receiving reports of an SOS on Feb. 21.


Moskaluk said Friday that had the RCMP received the SOS information first hand near the beginning of the incident things could have been different.


"As early as the 17th (of February) certain agencies did have the information that these signs were seen on the mountain," Moskaluk said. " (That) would have given us the opportunity or had us making the decision as to whether we were activating a search and rescue response."


Moskaluk said although Blackburn suffered frostbite injuries to his extremities it's "quite amazing" that he survived 10 days in the wilderness.


Blackburn was released from hospital Wednesday.


There was a nearby creek from which to drink and Blackburn may have eaten foliage to survive, police have said. The nights were particularly cold, dipping to -15C.

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well the way I see it is obviously not popular, but the heli ski company obviously has helis so they see and sos it's reported, the way everyone gets talking around the place in the night about this from day 1, I know if I were around something like this I would be looking the next day, there was a life lost, and fingers are pointing to the cops, but the heli ski outfit with the friggin machines and at the very least the bozo that's flying it should, be confirming stuff, stop for a minute you wizards and think about it for a minute, how would you feel if it was you, or someone close, the bottom line is it's a small little community, the pilots there had to know something about the sos, 9 days???? and in the end the guy had to friggin near jump up and bite the guy in the arse.


there chew on that for a while

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Hhhmmm.... Some very constructive, incisive and very thoughtful information to go with Bar C. Ha ha ha ha - you gotta be kidding at this stage. Procedures are put in place for a reason. Sounds like you are in a life search for that award wining, life saving medal. People who break procedure, and go running out the door usually end up becoming part of the rescued or deceased group. I have seen it happen before, and it will happen again. Just hope that when you do end up hurting yourself, you don't bring anyone else down with you.


All the same, everyone is entitled to their own opinion on these matters. I just think you went about this all the wrong way, and in the end it seems that you are the one that has pushed for giving pilots a bad name.


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Bar C,


Where did it say anything about the ski company ignoring it? It said: "...a ski guide spotted an SOS signal that the couple had marked in the snow."


Where was the guide? Are we assuming that he was in a helicopter and the pilot refused to go and look??


Didn't see that anywhere.


Did he see while skiing down the mountain from across the valley?


Didn't see that anywhere.


It is a tragedy, but they went out of bounds, unprepared for a day of skiing let alone for anything beyond that! What if they had just broken a ski? Twisted an ankle? Broke a binding? Would "I" as a pilot still be responsible?


They alerted no one.


They told nobody where they were going.


They told nobody when they would be back.


They had no supplies/equipment for the least minor accident, problem or situation.




...and the pilot's an as***le.


Go figure...


"I" as a pilot, am NOT RESPONSIBLE for someone's stupidity.


As a human being I should care, and most (if not all) of us do. There is not one of us here that would refuse a rescue, or to push ourselves to our safe limit, if required in order to save someone.


But my job as "a pilot", "a heliski pilot", or "a general fly around charter pilot", does not, should not, and will not be the one that has to save everyone.


Hopefully if any good comes out of this, (and it may not, as these things seem to just keep happening over and over), is people will TAKE MORE RESPONSIBILITY for themselves, so "I" the pilot am not required to notice and rescue everyone that is not prepared for the situations they put themselves into.







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The Heli-Ski company DID a full Valley search (350BA) - ON THEIR OWN DIME.


The 205 Pilot had a responsibility to his 12 passengers, and believe me, he COULD not safely land a 205 near any of those SOS tracks ( that I saw).


Bar C, time to give it up, the 205 guy did what he should of .... REPORTED IT !


Oh, PS, I'm not the 205 guy nor work for the Ski company nor that Heli company.

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