First responders arrived at the bluffs near Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital on July 11, after a witness reported seeing a climber fall when a rock face gave way. (Guy Bertrand photo)

First responders arrived at the bluffs near Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital on July 11, after a witness reported seeing a climber fall when a rock face gave way. (Guy Bertrand photo)

Climbing death near Trail hospital under investigation

No details are being released by the coroner other than the deceased is a male in his 30s

Few details are known about the death of a rock climber in Trail last month.

“The BC Coroners Service is still in the early stages of this investigation,” spokesperson Andy Watson told the Trail Times.

“We will determine who died, by what means, when, where, and how they came to die,” he said. “I have no new information at this time.”

The coroner service will not be releasing a name, and would only confirm the deceased was a local man in his 30s.

“Due to the privacy of the deceased,” Watson said. “We do not confirm or release identity, per the Coroners Act and provincial privacy legislation.”

In March 2017, the BC Coroners Service reversed a policy of releasing identities of people who have died suddenly, unexpectedly, or in public — a policy that has long existed and deemed part of its mandate to ensure ‘no public death is concealed, overlooked or ignored’.

The reversal in policy has been significant because, in a way, the public has lost factual insight into sudden death investigations through a coroner’s report or through a coroner’s inquest.

“This follows a review of all our information release policies which was conducted as part of a recommendation from the Office of the Ombudsperson,” Watson clarified. “They issued a number of recommendations to various agencies in government as part of the ‘Misfire’ report.”

(The Ombudsperson was asked to investigate issues arising from employment terminations at the Ministry of Health back in 2012. According to the Ombudsperson, the report addresses, “the flawed investigations and rushed decision making that resulted in key government officials taking action that had far-reaching and harmful consequences.”)

After this review, the service’s approach regarding the release of names was revised to fall into line with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act as well as certain sections of the Coroners Act.

“The BC Coroners Service needs to carefully balance personal privacy – including the privacy of the deceased and their family and loved ones – with public interest,” Watson said.

“We continue to investigate all sudden and unexpected deaths in B.C. and work with various agencies – including police during homicide investigations, in which they are the first investigators along with IIO (Independent Investigations Office) – and provide recommendations to prevent future deaths.

“And, as you know, we are also diligent about providing timely aggregate data about trends and patterns in deaths in B.C. to support awareness and public safety.”

Until the investigation is complete, Watson can confirm if there is an investigation, and provide gender, age range, and the decedent’s hometown.

Police and search teams were called to the mountainside above the Trail hospital the morning of July 11, after a witness reported seeing a climber fall when a rock bluff gave way.

Unstable terrain stalled the recovery effort. Geo-engineers surveilled the site, and that night, a helicopter long line rescue was used to extricate the climber.