Sledding community mourns loss

Sicamous’ sledding community is mourning the loss of one of their own.

Sicamous’ sledding community is mourning the loss of one of their own.

Kevin James Oystryk, 34, was killed in an avalanche Sunday, March 6, confirms the BC Coroners Service. Oystryk was reported missing after failing to return from a solo snowmobiling expedition in the Owl’s Head mountain area.

The search was initiated early Tuesday morning, March 8.

Shuswap Search and Rescue volunteers responded, with support come first light from an RCMP helicopter crew. Also included in the search and rescue effort were family and friends, members of the Eagle Valley Snowmobile Club, Eclipse Helicopter and a Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure avalanche technician, who helped assess the risk to ground crews.

Moskaluk said Oystryk was carrying both a GPS spot beacon as well as a transceiver receiver.

“Hampered by poor visibility, the air search was short, however successful in locating a fresh avalanche slide and a single snowmobile track,” said Moskaluk.

Police were able to obtain a pinged location from the beacon, which Moskaluk said corroborated with findings at the fresh avalanche location near Skinny Ridge by Morton Lake.

“It’s a big, bad scene up here,” Shuswap Search and Rescue manager John Schut reported at 11:30 a.m. on March 8.

Schut said the many snow overhangs were making conditions extremely dangerous, so helicopters were being used to place explosives to set off avalanches.

“They need to do that so it’s safe to work in that area,” said Schut.

Moskaluk said ground searchers were to be turned around due to continued avalanche risk. But this was just as some of them had made it to the slide area and began their search.

“The man was located deceased with the transceiver that he was equipped with,” said Moskaluk.

Oystryk’s body was airlifted and the search concluded.

At the March 9 council meeting, Sicamous councillors took time during their reports to share their memories of Oystryk and express their condolences.

“Tuesday we found out Sicamous lost a person up on the sledding hill,” said Coun. Todd Kyllo. “He was not only a great asset to this community, he was a great employee. He worked for me and a couple of my businesses… my heart and prayers go out to his family.”

“Kevin was a great sledder and a great asset…,” said Coun. Jeff Mallmes. “The guy put 20,000… miles a year on a sled. He loved it out there, he stayed out there overnight. It’s unfortunate. Our sympathy goes to his family.”