One person is dead and two are injured after a backcountry skiing accident near Haines on Sunday.
The Haines Police Department received an ambulance call Sunday afternoon to the Haines Airport where a helicopter brought an injured skier. The skier was transported to the Haines clinic where he was pronounced dead. Two injured skiers were also brought to the clinic. Haines police notified Alaska State Troopers, who is the lead investigating agency on the incident. A trooper arrived in Haines from Juneau on Monday, according to trooper spokesperson Megan Peters.
“He’s been trying to do interviews; he was able to fly over the area to see it. He has a couple more interviews lined up before he leaves town and has to get back to Juneau,” Peters said.
Troopers identified the deceased as 34-year-old Christian Cabanilla of Haines.
Cabanilla is a guide with Haines heliski company Southeast Alaska Backcountry Adventures. But company owner, Scott Sundberg, said Monday Cabanilla was skiing recreationally with a group of skiers, and he was not the official guide of the group.
Sundberg said the two injured skiers were in stable condition on Monday. Both were medevaced to Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau and one of the skiers was later sent to the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
The group of five was skiing as part of a commercial tour with the company just west of Haines when the incident occurred, according to Sundberg. He said reports indicate the incident might have been caused by a massive cornice failure, but not an avalanche. Troopers’ preliminary findings are similar, Peters said.
“And from what it sounds like, they were traversing an area and snow collapsed from under them, but I don’t know how far the fall was,” Peters said.
Cabanilla’s biography on the company’s website says he is an international backcountry snowboard guide working in Alaska, Chilean Patagonia and Antarctica with more than a decade of experience in the Alaska heli-ski industry. It says he is also a commercial helicopter pilot in Alaska. He is originally from Vasalia, Calif.
This is Haines third heliskiing fatality in two years. Last year a guide and skier were killed in a March avalanche while skiing with a different company.