Shuswap trail still closed after deaths of two hikers ruled accidental | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Shuswap trail still closed after deaths of two hikers ruled accidental

A 2019 view of the Lizard Trail one of the Creek Falls trails, with tape blocking access to the public
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Columbia Shuswap Regional District
February 21, 2020 - 4:00 PM

The B.C. Coroners Service has confirmed the death of two hikers who fell from cliffs at on a trail in the Shuswap last summer was accidental.

The two fatalities happened in May and July, 2019. Following the second fatality, the Creek Falls Trail near Two Mile Road in Mara was closed to the public and remains closed.

The coroners report says a 27-year-old man was hiking with friends May 15, 2019. The three men left the main trail and climbed up to a cave on the rock face where they were taking photos. The rock gave way and the 27-year-old, whose name is redacted in the report, fell 140 metres down a steep embankment. The man died of a traumatic head injury. The report states alcohol was a contributing factor in the accidental death.

A little over two months later a 53-year-old teacher from Alberta fell 30 metres from a trail while hiking with a family member. Media reports identified the man as David Kowalchuk, a school principal from Edmonton.

The coroners report says Kowalchuk was hiking on the upper trail July 29, 2019, heading back to the parking lot. The two were not walking together and the family member became concerned that Kowalchuk was taking a long time to return. The family member headed back up the trail but couldn't find Kowalchuk.

The report says during this time another hiker discovered Kowalchuk lying on the lower trail unresponsive. Kowalchuk had fallen from the upper trail to the lower trail a distance of about 30 metres. The report says the trail is largely made from gravel with intermittent larger rocks.

The following day the trail was closed by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District and remains closed.

An independent agency has since completed an assessment of the trails and made recommendations. These safety recommendations include blocking off unofficial paths made by hikers that lead to the cliff edge, improving signage, and describing the hike as a loop instead of a view hike - to discourage people from walking towards the edge to see the view.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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