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Burnaby man found dead in Lions Bay area, south of Squamish

Ryoji Fujita, a 37-year-old outdoor enthusiast, was caught in an avalanche
Ryoji Fujita
In memoriam: Ryoji Fujita.

A 37-year-old man was killed in an avalanche in the Lions Bay area, south of Squamish, say search and rescue officials.

Martin Colwell of Lions Bay Search and Rescue identified Ryoji Fujita of Burnaby as the man who died.

“I would call [Fujita] sort of an outdoorsman... quite experienced that does a lot of hikes in the Lower Mainland,” said Colwell.

Colwell said that rescuers — which included Squamish Search and Rescue and help from other Sea to Sky teams — found the man’s body on March 20.

Next of kin have been notified.

Fujita left for his trek on March 14, when he told a friend he was setting out to hike Hat Mountain.

When Fujita didn’t return, rescuers were mobilized and scoured the area, but with little luck.

Colwell told The Chief a turning point came when crews received a tip from adventurers who’d been in the area at the time. He said they reported a man at the peak of Brunswick Mountain, which is very close by.

“You could make out an outline of a person wearing dark clothing,” Colwell said, describing a photo sent to him.

Rescuers were also told that an avalanche had occurred in the area.

Search teams, avalanche dogs and helicopters were all thrown into the rescue efforts. RCMP and North Shore Rescue also were called in to help.

At the end, a helicopter with a special transmitter-receiver picked up a signal and allowed crews to trace Fujita’s location.

“Only a foot to a metre down, they discovered this man’s body,” Colwell said.

He said the device on the helicopter, called a RECCO unit, is relatively new to North America and could greatly change the way rescues are done.

“[Except in training,] this thing hadn’t been used operationally in this mode at all, and it worked,” he said.