A tribute hockey game was hosted by the Victoria Grizzlies on Jan. 8, 2016 to honour the memory of Reid Kyfiuk, a Saanich minor hockey player who had died two weeks earlier in a snowboarding accident. victoriagrizzlies.com photo

Saanich teen’s 2015 snowboarding death ruled an accidental drowning

Coroner says Reid Kyfiuk asphyxiated after falling face-first into a deep snow hole

The popular Saanich teen who died in 2015 while snowboarding on Mount Washington was the victim of an accidental drowning, a coroner has ruled.

Reid Michael Kyfiuk was discovered dead, upside down with his face submerged in a creek, still attached to his board following an approximately six-hour search on Dec. 22, 2015, coroner Adele Lambert confirmed in a report signed June 8 and released to Black Press late last week.

He was in a three-metre-deep formation known as a “snow hole.” Snow holes, and similar formations known as “tree wells” are pockets that can form naturally in the snow.

“It is likely that becoming suspended head down and unable to move within the snow resulted in positional asphyxia and loss of consciousness. This led to drowning by being immersed in the creek that was underlying the snow hole,” Lambert states.

“Tree wells are considered natural hazards and can occur within or outside of the ski boundary. This particular ski resort provides a warning about tree wells and recommends keeping visual contact with your partner at all times.”

While conventional thinking might attribute the vast majority of ski and snowboard injuries to head and other blunt trauma injuries, a sizeable amount (20 per cent of ski deaths and 46 per cent of snowboard deaths) occur because of suffocation and drowning.

Kyfiuk — 15 and a Grade 10 student at Claremont Secondary when he died — had been snowboarding with his family when he entered an ungroomed area within the ski boundary by himself shortly after 3 p.m. According to a family source, he had left the company of family just moments before, cutting from one run to an adjacent run being used by another family member. When he had not returned approximately an hour later, a search began.

“The location he was found was considered to be outside of an identified run,” Lambert reports. “As such, the area was not groomed, maintained, or required to have regular safety checks or hazards marked by staff.”

He was wearing the appropriate helmet and goggles and toxicology analysis found no evidence of alcohol or drugs.

The coroner’s report makes no recommendations.

According to the most recent report issued by the Ministry of Justice, there were 61 deaths in B.C. attributed to skiing or snowboarding between the years of 2007 to 2013.

Only three of them were in the Island region and just one of those in Courtenay.