by Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on Tuesday January 10 2023
The community of Nelson is still reeling from the tragic news that a constable with the local city police force was killed in an avalanche near Kaslo Monday afternoon.
RCMP said officers were called at approximately 12:23 p.m. to a report of an avalanche near Goat Range Provincial Park, located north of Kaslo.
Two off-duty Nelson City Police officers were skiing in the area when the avalanche occurred.
The deceased officer has been identified as four-year Nelson Police member Wade Tittemore.
Tittemore, 43, is survived by a wife and two young boys.
The other Nelson Police officer, 28-year-old Matthieu Nolet, survived the avalanche and is currently listed in critical condition in hospital ICU.
Police Chief Donovan Fisher said Nolet’s family was travelling to Nelson to support the officer.
“Obviously, it is without saying, this has had a significant impact and has been very devastating for a number of the officers,” Nelson Police Chief Donovan Fisher said in media briefing Tuesday afternoon.
“(Constable) Wade (Tittemore) was a trainer of some of our newer officers so they had a very close relationship . . ..”
Chief Fisher explained the small, close-knit detachment, came together Monday evening to comfort one another during the tragic time.
“Most of the officers came into the department (Monday) night,” Chief Fisher said.
“We were able to offer some companionship to them. We had some food brought and we were very fortunate that the RCMP Chaplain was in the area dealing with another matter . . . and quickly volunteered his services as well come in to speak with members as well.”
Nelson’s newly elected Mayor Janice Morrison said Nelson Police Department is one of the smallest detachments in Canada and this tragedy has hit the community hard.
“This police force is part of the community of Nelson (and) it has been since before Nelson was incorporated so it’s always been an important part of the city,” explained Mayor Morrison, adding that Constable Tittemore was a valued member of the community as well as an avid outdoorsman.
“We’ve depended on (City Police Department) through many challenges over the years and so, I say it’s with heavy hearts, that the whole community feels this loss today.”
Nelson Police Officer Wade Tittemore brought camaraderie, friendship and support to everybody at the department said Chief Donovan Fisher.
Both officers educated for backcountry
Chief Fisher was able to visit Constable Nolet Tuesday morning in hospital.
Nolet explained to Fisher that the very large avalanche came down when the two officers, each wearing emergency beacons, were skiing in the bowl near Groat Range Provincial Park.
“Obviously this was a very significant avalanche . . . a very large amount of snow came down in the bowl where they were skiing at the time,” Chief Fisher said.
“Both of them are very experienced backcountry skiers and had taken a number of safety checks and safety precautions.”
“But at times, Mother Nature, unfortunately, is very unpredictable,” Chief Fisher added.
“And at times, even taking the proper safety precautions they were caught in an avalanche.”
The force of the avalanche thrust Nolet into a tree, allowing the officer to partly remain above the snow line.
With his arm sticking out of the snow, four other skiers in the area were able to rescue the officer, pulling him out to provide first aid.
Nolet was transferred by helicopter to hospital.
Chief Fisher said that Tittemore was buried approximately two meters beneath the surface of the snow line and once located, efforts to resuscitate proved unsuccessful.
“Both members were equipped beacons that certainly sped up efforts to locate them and there happened to be . . . four skiers/snowmobilers in the area but there was significant amount of time before they were rescued,” Chief Fisher said.
“Constable Nolet said he hit the tree that probably caused a (most) if his injuries, but probably saved his life.”
Chief Fisher said Nelson Police has received tremendous support from the RCMP E-Division, who stepped up to provide officers to cover calls in the area to allow NPD members to support the families and take the necessary time to individually deal with this tragedy.
Constable Tittemore 'a true gentleman'
Chief Fisher was asked by the media about Constable Tittemore.
“He was a true gentleman,” Chief Fisher said.
“He was soft-spoken but knew how to deal with situations when he needed to . . .. He was a great mentor to the officers in the department truly one of those guys everyone looked up to and everyone really like him."
Chief Fisher said losing anybody in the department would have a significant impact, but to lose Constable Tittemore in particular will be very difficult as "he was just that guy if you needed anything . . . if you needed some help with an investigation he was always there."
"The losses (of Constable Tittemore) are on all fronts," said Chief Fisher.
"The skill and the knowledge and the work he brought to the department; is going to be hard to replace."
"The camaraderie, the friendship and the support he brought to everybody at the department is going to be hard to replace," Chief Fisher added.
"It’s just a huge impact to everybody. We will move forward but it’s not going to be without long lasting sorrow."
Nelson Police Department
- The Nelson Police Department is among the oldest in the Province. It came into being as a municipal police force on April 17th, 1897. Nelson’s vibrant history is matched by the lively personalities who have served on this police authority over the years.
- The initial force consisted of a Chief Constable and one Constable. Robert A. Winearls, appointed the first Chief Constable, quit over a salary dispute less than one month after he was hired, on May 9th, 1897. His successor was Seneca G. Ketchum, who acted in the capacity of Chief until the next Chief was appointed. The salary at that time of $65 per month was debated frequently during those early days at City Council, and was increased to $80 per month on June 7, 1897
- More than 125 years of its existence, the Nelson Police Department has grown from two to twenty members. Chief Constable Donovan Fisher has been the Chief Constable since 2021. Today, the Nelson Police deal with a wide range of problems. Our modern, technologically dependent society has produced a complex web of laws which must be enforced by police. Societal and cultural evolution has resulted in more stringent standards for conduct of police members. But the fact remains that today, as in 1897, Nelson is a community still small enough for its residents to know and help each other. Community-based policing is a much desired concept in many other communities in the twenty-first century, but it has always been a fact of life in Nelson. Nelson residents can still experience the presence of the beat officer patrolling on foot on its historic streets.
Source: From City of Nelson