Archive | May, 2009

Skier Sues RCMP, Resort and Search and Rescue Team

May 9, 2009

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http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20090508.wrescue0508/BNStory/National/home

Golden, BC

A negligence action has been filed by a man who watched his wife freeze to death after the couple skied out-of-bounds at a British Columbia resort.  Gilles Blackburn is suing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and Golden & District Search and Rescue for failing to initiate a search and rescue operation. 

Mr. Blackburn and his wife, Marie-Josée Fortin, were missing for about nine days and had stamped out numerous SOS distress signals which went unheeded, the statement of claim alleges.  Ms. Fortin died of hypothermia after seven days.

“They cried out for help and the people charged with the obligation of search and rescue did nothing,” says Mr. Blackburn’s lawyer, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

The suit says the RCMP, the resort and the search and rescue group “all equipped with the knowledge of the SOS signals … negligently failed to initiate or conduct a search for the plaintiff or Ms. Fortin or otherwise properly investigate the source and significance of the SOS signals.”

Search and rescue lawsuits are exceptionally rare.  It is clear that a response should have been initiated quicker and the RCMP have already apologized for not authorizing a search sooner.  The challenge of the plaintiff will be to prove that the parties had a duty to respond, that the defendants’ actions or inactions were a breach of the required standard of care, and that their failure to respond faster caused or contributed to Ms. Fortin’s death.  No statements of defence have yet been filed.

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