The second police officer caught in a backcountry avalanche near Kaslo, B.C., earlier this month has died of his injuries, the Nelson Police Department said.
Const. Mathieu Nolet, 28, was skiing with his colleague Wade Tittemore in a mountain pass 60 kilometres north of Nelson on Jan. 9, when the two were swept down the mountain in a large avalanche.
“Const. Nolet suffered severe internal injuries and died this morning in hospital in Kelowna,” the Nelson Police Department said in a news release Saturday.
Tittemore, 43, died of injuries on the scene and was posthumously promoted to detective.
“It is hard to fully express the sadness the department is feeling right now,” said Chief Const. Donovan Fisher in a video posted online.
“The memorial for Const. Tittemore was this past week, and now we’ve lost a second officer and friend. It is truly devastating.”
Tittemore and Nolet were avid backcountry skiers, had plenty of experience and training and were both carrying probes, beacons and other avalanche safety gear.
The day of the avalanche, Nolet was found and rescued by four people who witnessed the slide.
Nolet a ‘dedicated, caring and positive’ officer
According to the NPD, Nolet had worked in Nelson for just over a year after serving with the Calgary Police Service and chose to live in Nelson because of his love for the backcountry and dedication to community policing.
Fisher said he visited Nolet several times in hospital and said the officer remained upbeat despite the circumstances.
“Const. Nolet was a dedicated, caring and positive young officer with nothing but promise,” he said in the video. “He passed away with his fiancée, his sister and his parents with him.”
Nelson Mayor Janice Morrison said the loss of a local police officer will resonate deeply in the small, tight-knit community.
“We have one of the smallest municipal police forces in the country,” Morrison said. “This tragedy has hit us hard; our deepest condolences go out to Const. Nolet’s family.”
Tittemore remembered in celebration of life
Morrison added the city will be there for Tittemore and Nolet’s loved ones and continue to support Fisher and the police department moving forward.
Tittemore was remembered in a celebration of life at Nelson’s Capitol Theatre on Wednesday, where his sister-in-law Shannon Cross described him as “loyal, honest and full of integrity.”
Tittemore was a husband, father of two children and a 15-year police veteran who also previously worked for the Calgary Police Service.
In a statement Saturday afternoon, B.C.’s minister of public safety and solicitor general said his thoughts were with Nolet’s family, friends and colleagues when he heard news of his death.
“The loss of both officers from a backcountry avalanche event is a tremendous loss for Nelson and we are here to support them as they navigate through this difficult time,” said Mike Farnworth, thanking first responders and health-care staff for the help they provided following the incident.
An online fundraiser for both officer’s families had raised nearly $80,000 as of Saturday afternoon.