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Whistler man dies in tree well

Jonathan Unger identified as snowboarder who suffocated in the Miller's Ridge area



A day of snowmobiling, skiing and snowboarding turned deadly near Pemberton this weekend when a Whistler rider was trapped in a tree well.

The BC Coroners Service identified Jonathan Unger, 29, as the snowboarder who died at Miller's Ridge Sunday, Feb. 23.

Unger and a friend were snowboarding in the 1.5 metres of fresh snow. The pair became separated and when Unger failed to meet up with his friend he hiked up the slope to discover Unger upside down in a tree well. According to the RCMP, the friend pulled the victim out of the tree well; however, he was unresponsive, blue and not breathing. Those in the area tried to revive Unger but their efforts weren't successful.

The RCMP was called at 5 p.m.

"Police, Search and Rescue and the fire department all attended to the Miller's Ridge Forest Service parking lot," said Staff Sergeant Steve LeClair. "Given the fact that it was snowing and the avalanche danger was escalating and night had fallen, the decision was made not to go into the backcountry that night."

Vicki Unger, Jonathon's mother, said her son loved Whistler and over the last decade he lived in the resort on and off.

"He felt closest to God when enjoying the beauty of creation, either on a snowboard or especially on a bike," she said. "The family welcome his friends to join us as we celebrate his life on Saturday, March 1 at 1:30 p.m. at Culloden Church, 6060 Culloden St. in Vancouver."

The officials went back the next day with the coroner and Unger's body was recovered.

Payam Kazousian was snowmobiling and skiing in the area that day. He saw Unger's friend at the end of the day and learned of the tragedy as Kazousian and his friends were leaving. He said it was cloudy above the tree line and those skiing and boarding in the area were sticking to the terrain in the trees.

One of Kazousian's friends also had a tree well encounter. He said his group always uses a buddy system and everyone had radios. Kazousian's friend was pulled out of the tree well before his situation became dangerous.

As Kazousian and his group were leaving they checked in with Unger's friend after he finished updating the RCMP.

"We asked him if there was anything we could do and he said no," said Kazousian.

Pair survives backcountry night

Two women camped in the backcountry after an equipment issue set them back Feb. 24.

The pair called for help and the RCMP referred the women to the Whistler Blackcomb patrol, which gave them instructions on how to get out of the backcountry. LeClair said police checked in with the pair after sunset and learned they made a snow cave and hunkered down for the night with appropriate clothing and some food.

The next morning police caught up with the pair and confirmed they were in good health.

Vigilantes chase down thug

Three men assaulted a man who slipped and fell in the early morning of Feb. 23 outside a nightclub. While the victim was down the three assailants attacked him.

LeClair said it took some time to locate the victim at the clinic where he was being stitched up. A statement was taken from the victim and his common-law spouse.

According to LeClair, three bystanders who witnessed the assault chased the trio involved, caught up with one of them and struck him. That person escaped but the bystanders caught up with their victim again at the taxi loop.

Since all the perpetrators of violence escaped without being identified, no charges were laid. LeClair said injuries from the fighting were minor.