December 31, 2008 / 8:02 PM / in 9 years

Survivor describes deadly Canadian avalanches

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - One of three men who survived a series of avalanches in Canada’s Rocky Mountains wept on Wednesday as he recounted being forced to leave eight friends behind to die.

<p>The morning sun reflects off the Rocky Mountains November 30, 2006. REUTERS/Andy Clark</p>

The three men dug themselves free in the accident Sunday near Fernie, British Columbia. But survivor Jeff Adams said they could not tell where the others were buried and knew another wall of snow was about to crash down on them.

“That’s when we had to make the gut-wrenching decision to leave our eight friends and start walking off the mountain said,” Adams told reporters in Sparwood, British Columbia, where all the snowmobilers lived.

Another avalanche buried the site minutes after they decided to leave, ending any hope of finding survivors.

“I replay it in my head all the time whether it was the right decision or not,” Adams said. “The three of us talked it through and decided the best bet was to get out of the area and get help.”

The men were experienced wilderness snowmobilers, and knew recent heavy snowfall had created a high danger of avalanches in the area of southeastern British Columbia.

When the avalanche hit, an emergency beacon activated by one of the snowmobilers alerted the authorities. But equipment the men had carried to dig each other free was lost in the wall of snow that hit them at an estimated 150 km-per hour.

Adams returned to the accident site with search crews on Tuesday to help locate the last of the eight bodies to be found. “It brought a sense of closure,” he said.

Reporting Allan Dowd; editing by Janet Guttsman

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