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Family, friends mourn five hikers who died in mountains near Vancouver

A helicopter is shown at a staging area in Lions Bay, B.C., on April 9, 2017. (Linda Givetash/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Friends and family members of five hikers who died in the mountains near Vancouver gathered on Monday afternoon to support each other, says the Korean consul general.

Sunggu Kim said hearing the cries of a hiker’s daughter amid families grieving their losses was difficult.

“She was holding (her) mom,” said Kim, who was asked by the families with connections to the Korean community in the Vancouver area to speak on their behalf. “It was very sad to see and to hear that.”

He said about 30 friends and family members of the five hikers were in Squamish. Three of the families will hold a joint funeral service at a church in Surrey, he said, and the two others will have separate services in New Westminster and Burnaby.

A hiker who came upon the ledge where the five hikers fell on Saturday recalled his shock when he realized what had happened.

Alastair Ferries said he had just passed a man who mentioned his five friends were ahead of him on Mount Harvey, about 35 kilometres north of Vancouver.

“I got to the summit and there was nobody there,” he said in an interview on Monday. “There were some tracks leading over to the edge and it looked like it had broken off there.”

Ferris, 62, of North Vancouver, said that’s when he knew the group had fallen when a cornice, or snow ledge, had fallen from under them. Searchers found the bodies on Sunday, 500 metres below the mountain’s summit.

When their friend joined him, Ferris said the man’s demeanour immediately changed.

“I could see the astonishment on his face. That verified to me that yeah, there actually were five people and they had fallen. I said, ‘I’m sorry, I think your friends have fallen.’ ”

Ferries said he went to his vehicle to call for help.

Martin Colwell, who managed the search, said on Sunday that a cornice is “very deceptive.”

“It creates a nice gentle curve to the downwind side and it looks like a nice gentle slope in fact to walk on, and tempting to walk on … . Unfortunately you can’t see the edge of the mountain face below it.”

Lions Bay Mayor Karl Buhr said Monday the hikers were experienced but they were not carrying avalanche beacons, making it harder to find them.

“They didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “They were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

At least 60 search and rescue members volunteered their time to the search, Buhr said.

“It was a very big incident and the response was amazing. I’ve never seen people looking more tired.”

Buhr said recovery teams had to ensure it was safe to go into the mountains because of the potential for avalanches and they worked hard to retrieve the bodies on Sunday so families did not have to wait one more night.

The Salvation Army provided food for the recovery teams, Buhr said, adding the operation was too much for the town to deal with on its own.

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