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Snow Bridge Collapse, Fall into Bergschrund, Unroped, No Hard Hat, British Columbia, Coast Mountains, Mount Tantalus

SNOW BRIDGE COLLAPSE, FALL INTO BERGSCHRUND, UNROPED,

NO HARD HAT

British Columbia, Coast Mountains, Mount Tantalus

On the morning of August 5, 1989, 18 members of the North Shore Rescue Team were beginning a three-day training exercise in the Mount Tantalus area. Bob McGregor (28) and Darrell Freeman (25) were approaching the bergschrund at 1980 meters at the west foot of the gully leading to the Tantalus–Dione col. They were unroped. The snow collapsed under McGregor and he fell and slid 35 meters into the bergschrund, sustaining massive head injuries.

Freeman immediately rappelled into the bergschrund for the full length of his rope, but could neither reach bottom nor locate McGregor. He jumarred out and went for help, but over two hours elapsed before another party could reach the scene. A further three and a half hours were needed to give first aid and raise McGregor to the surface, by which time hypothermia was added to his other injuries. A helicopter previously summoned by cellular phone flew him to the Squamish hospital, but he died shortly after arrival. (Source: Ian Kay, West Vancouver, BC)

Analysis

Bergschrunds, like any other crevasses, must be approached with extreme caution. A hard hat would have mitigated the victim’s injuries and might have saved his life. Valuable time might have been saved if both men had been provided with two-way radios. This is perhaps a counsel of perfection, but as it was, the pair’s one radio went into the bergschrund with the victim. The principal lesson from this tragedy is that it

happened despite the proximity of a large, well trained and equipped rescue team. (Source: Ian Kay, West Vancouver, BC)