Whistler builder believed to have suffocated in snowbank
A spokeswoman for the Retallack resort, an officer from the Kaslo RCMP and the West Kootenay coroner have all admitted to being shocked by the circumstances surrounding the death of Whistler builder Wayne Phillips.
One of Phillips's closest friends, Dr. Vlad Krajina, tried to resuscitate Phillips at the scene and he described Phillips's death as just "too fluky for words".
Phillips died last week while cat-skiing near the Retallack Resort Lodge in the Kootenays after he went headfirst into a snowbank.
The 43-year-old father of four went missing near the end of a run around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 26 th . His lifeless body was dragged out of hard-packed snow approximately 45 minutes later.
But the most astonishing aspect of his disappearance is that at the time of his death Phillips was with a group of 11 other skiers and two accredited guides.
Eight members of his group, including Krajina, were doctors trained in emergency medicine and all of them worked on Phillips when he was found almost completely buried in a creek-bed.
Phillips was also an experienced powder skier that had taken several holidays in the region.
Krajina said Phillips was skiing near the back of the group when he veered onto a "mickey mouse" side trail.
"It's really too fluky for words because the trail he was skiing on looked about as dangerous as a parking lot," Krajina said.
"He'd fallen over into a ditch and the snow had just turned to concrete around him and filled in over the top of him, like a tree well," Krajina said.
West Kootenay coroner Sandra Reimer said in a preliminary report that Phillips suffocated, but her full report on his death is not expected for another three months.
Reimer agreed that Phillips's death was puzzling but she was also adamant that it served as a warning for people who ski in the backcountry.
"A lot of people don't realize how soft snow can be and how it can hide branches and holes and if you fall into them, you're at the mercy of the snow," Reimer said.
"Cat skiing in the backcountry is exciting but it's mother-nature's territory and she can be very cruel.
"People need to be aware of the chance they're taking when they venture out."
Phillips was clinically dead when the rescuers found him but Reimer said the doctors in his group worked on him for some time because his body temperature had dropped dramatically.