LAKE LOUISE, Alta. — Crews hoping to recover a missing search and rescue technician who was swept off a cliff in Alberta got a chance to enter the site where it’s believed he’s buried by avalanche debris. But they had to leave after only a few hours due to the threat of further slides.
Parks Canada says in a news release that a window of good weather and stable avalanche conditions allowed four searchers and two dog teams into the primary search area at Polar Circus in Banff National Park on Monday.
But after two-and-a-half hours, they had to leave without finding any clues on the location of Sgt. Mark Salesse.
Salesse, 44, a search and rescue technician based in Winnipeg, was ice climbing last Thursday as part of his training when weather conditions changed and an avalanche was triggered.
His climbing partner tried to locate him but was unsuccessful, and no ground searchers have been able to enter the area in the following days due to the continuing avalanche threat.
A helicopter search of the area Friday failed to spot any clues, and Parks Canada said over the weekend that the rescue had become a recovery mission since it was unlikely Salesse could have survived.
Parks Canada says the search will resume Tuesday, if conditions allow.
Brian Webster, a visitor safety specialist with Parks Canada, said over the weekend that additional avalanches have fallen on the search area over the past number of days. Some of those were natural ones, while others were triggered on purpose in order to make the area safe enough for ground crews to enter.
The additional debris from those slides would make the jobs of the searchers more difficult, Webster confirmed.
Webster said Salesse had not been wearing an avalanche transceiver, meaning that searchers would be relying heavily on the dogs being able to pick up a scent.
Salesse, who is with the 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron based at 17 Wing Winnipeg, was born in Bathurst, N.B., and according to his mother, Liz Quinn, had 25 years of ice-climbing experience.