ALBERTA

McBride Avalanche Survivors Speak Out About Their Ordeal

02/01/2016 03:49 EST | Updated 02/01/2016 03:59 EST

One of the survivors of an avalanche that killed five Albertans in B.C. said one of the thoughts that ran through his mind was that he never had a chance to say goodbye to his wife.

Ivan Bombak, 60, was part of a group that left Vegreville, Alta., for McBride, B.C., on Thursday for a snowmobiling trip.

His group met up with three others. A total of 17 men were caught in an avalanche near Renshaw, just north of McBride, about 210 kilometres southeast of Prince George.

Bombak said the conditions were almost ideal, before the avalanche hit. He tried to run, but was overtaken in seconds.

"You are plunged into darkness. You are thrown about with no control whatsoever of your body," Bombak described to Global News about being caught in the crush of snow and ice.

He managed to dig himself out before rescuing a fellow snowmobiler's son. Vince Loewen, one of his longtime friends, was not so lucky.

'I was in shock'

Another survivor, Ian Park, said he was just metres away from his friend John Garley when he saw him disappear under the snow.

“I was in shock... had he not fallen, he would have made it," Park told The Globe and Mail.

Park said he and three friends rushed to dig Garley out of the snow. They got him out in five minutes, but it was too late.

Remembering those lost

The victims of Friday's avalanche have been identified as: 52-year-old Vincent Eugene Loewen of Vegreville; 41-year-old Tony Christopher Greenwood of Grand Prairie County; 55 year-old Ricky Robinson of Spruce Grove; 47 year-oldTodd William Chisholm of St. Albert; and 49-year-old John Harold Garley.

Garley's family and friends described him as an experienced snowmobiler who loved spending time in the mountains.

"He was just the biggest, most fun-loving individual you could imagine," Garley's friend, Dale Monaghan, told CBC News. "He lived life to the fullest."

On Saturday, country music singer George Canyon posted a tribute to Facebook in memory of Todd Chisholm.

I was very shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of my long time friend and fellow musician Todd Chisholm. Todd...

Posted by George Canyon on Saturday, 30 January 2016


Chisholm was a drummer and vocalist with Edmonton rock band exit303, a fixture in the local music scene for over 15 years.

According to the band's Facebook page, they played their last show together in Canmore in November.

Coroner report coming

B.C. Coroner Barb McLintock told The Canadian Press she is confident investigators will be able to determine what triggered the avalanche.

She said her office will also determine whether recommendations can be made to prevent similar tragedies from happening in future.

The Coroner's Office is urging anyone looking to venture into B.C.'s back country to check Avalanche Canada's risk levels first.

Friday's avalanche risk was rated "considerable" and warning signs were posted.

With files from The Canadian Press

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