Ponoka ‘in shock’ after long-time store owner killed by avalanche

A father of two from the Edmonton area and an IGA store owner from Ponoka have been identified as the two snowmobilers killed Saturday in an avalanche in British Columbia.

Tom Hamilton, 29, was from Ponoka, Alta., and Curtis Fries, 36, was from the Edmonton-area.

“It’s devastating,” said Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett, who said Hamilton’s family owned the town’s IGA store.

“The family with the store has been a big part of the community for pretty near a hundred years,” he said. “It’s hard to fathom, the community is in shock.”

Hamilton and Fries were sledding near McBride. B.C., with two other Alberta snowmobilers when three of the four were swept away by an avalanche.

One man dug himself out immediately, RCMP said in a news release. He joined another man in digging Hamilton out of the snow, but Hamilton was already dead.

The two survivors could not find Fries, so they went for help.

A search-and-rescue team decided conditions were too dangerous to attempt a search and recovery effort, police said.

On Sunday, Hamilton’s body was recovered by helicopter. Fries body was discovered a short distance away in about five metres of snow.

The Kinsmen Club of Ponoka Facebook page said Hamilton was a father of two young children and an avid snowmobiler.

“It is with great sadness that we inform you that Tom Hamilton has been found and is no longer with us,” the club posted Sunday.

“With this, the family can now have closure and move on to the long process of healing.”



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