A Quebec man whose wife died in B.C.'s backcountry after the pair became stranded for nine days in 2009 has settled his case against the local search and rescue organization.
Gilles Blackburn's lawyer, and Whistler's new mayor, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, confirmed this week that the case has been settled with Golden and District Search and Rescue (GADSAR), but she could not share any details.
The GADSAR settlement comes on the heels of last week's mediation between Blackburn and three separate parties involved in the lawsuit — GADSAR, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and the RCMP. Blackburn and Kicking Horse agreed that the action against the resort would be discontinued last week, without costs.
The legal challenge against the RCMP, however, is still outstanding after mediation failed last week.
"There's no obligation on anybody's part to continue settlement discussions," said Wilhelm-Morden. "There's no barrier on anyone's part to carry on settlement discussions either. But really the key point is the litigation carries on."
Blackburn and his wife Marie-Josée Fortin skied into the backcountry area of Canyon Creek from Kicking Horse on February 15, 2009. They had checked out their hotel before heading out of bounds into the backcountry.
Fortin died seven days later. A passing helicopter discovered Blackburn on February 24, nine days after they had set out.
On two separate occasions people touring in the backcountry reported seeing SOS distress signals the couple had left in the snow, but a search was never initiated.
In a media statement last week Kicking Horse Mountain Resort said the case serves a cautionary tale.
The couple was not equipped for the backcountry and did not have food, water, a map or a compass. They had no local knowledge of the area and no backcountry experience and did not tell anyone where they were going, said the statement.
"Kicking Horse Mountain Resort advises that this case presents a cautionary reminder of the importance of responsible backcountry travel. Persons venturing in the backcountry should be properly prepared in terms of training, skills, experience, equipment, knowledge of avalanche and weather conditions, local knowledge of the backcountry terrain and be equipped for self-rescue."
Like other search and rescue operations in the province, GADSAR is a volunteer organization whose purpose it to help the RCMP locate and evacuate lost or injured people.