NEWS

Mark Salesse's family 'prepared for the worst'

02/07/2015 02:21 EST | Updated 04/09/2015 05:59 EDT
The family of Mark Salesse, a missing Royal Canadian Air Force search and rescue technician, is bracing for the worst.

The 44-year-old was on a winter training exercise with the Canadian military when he was swept away by an avalanche Thursday night.

"I've very proud of him. He's 6'5", but he's a gentle giant, he's a bionic Hercules," his mother, Liz Quinn, said from Moncton, N.B.

"If anybody could survive this, it would be Mark, but the elements are against him."

Quinn said she has been in contact with the military, who told her Salesse fell approximately 800 feet and one or more avalanches fell on top of him.

Rescuers have so far been unable to locate Salesse, and need to secure the area before ground search and rescue crews can go in.

An aerial search was conducted Friday, but there has been no sign of the Salesse. 

3 other climbers safe

Cpt. Bettina McCullough-Drake, public affairs officer with 17 Wing Winnipeg, said rescue crews were having a hard time getting to the area because of weather and the danger of more avalanches. 

The group was training on the Polar Circus — a popular ice climbing route near the Weeping Wall area of Banff National Park. 

According to said McCullough-Drake, Salesse was performing annual training exercises with three other members of the 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron at the time of the incident. The other three members are safe.

McCulloch-Drake said the climbers would have taken the weather conditions into account before starting their exercise and conditions at the time were favourable, but the area is prone to avalanches.

"Search and rescue technicians are very well-trained for what they do," she said. "They are trained to operate in these kind of conditions so they have the skills.

"If anybody can come home safe, they can."

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