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Community of Nelson, B.C., grieves officer killed in avalanche

Nelson Police Constable Wade Tittemore poses in this undated handout photo. Tittemore, 43, who died in an avalanche Monday while skiing off-duty with a colleague just north of Kaslo, B.C., is being remembered as gentle man who looked out for those who were new to the force. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - City of Nelson

NELSON, B.C. — Flowers of condolence are stacking up at the police department in Nelson, B.C., as the close-knit community mourns an officer killed in an avalanche this week.

Const. Wade Tittemore, 43, died Monday while off-duty, skiing with a colleague just north of Kaslo, B.C.

He is being remembered as a doting father and gentle man who looked out for those who were new to the police force.

Sara Westnedge, who knew Tittemore, his wife and two elementary-school-aged sons through the daycare their families share, said he always had time for his children. 

"He was such a phenomenal dad. He was such a present father to his boys, and he gave them a lot of his time," she said.

She said Wednesday that so many flowers have been sent to the Nelson police station that she dropped off a box full of vases to organize them.

"Everyone is just wrapping their arms around these officers, and being present for them, and trying to care for them," said Westnedge, who is also a pastor in the community. 

"This is just an absolutely horrible thing to have happened. But I'm so proud of how our community is stepping up."

Tittemore and his co-worker, 28-year-old Const. Mathieu Nolet, were swept away by the avalanche while skiing in the backcountry. A search and rescue official said by the time they arrived on the scene, Tittemore had been dug out of the snow by a group of skiers nearby, but he had no life signs. 

Nolet was critically injured in the slide and was airlifted off the mountain to hospital where he was in the intensive care unit. 

Nelson police Chief Donovan Fisher said Tuesday that Tittemore will be missed terribly in the small force of 20 officers.

Fisher called Tittemore a hard worker, a skilled officer and a dedicated family man who was a mentor and example to many junior officers.

Westnedge said she has spoken to Tittemore's wife who wants to thank the search and rescue volunteers who responded to the avalanche near Goat Range Provincial Park, particularly the doctor who came to the scene.

An online fundraiser has been launched hoping to raise $100,000 for Tittemore's family and Nolet's recovery. 

Tittemore was a 15-year veteran officer who worked for the Calgary Police Service before moving to Nelson four years ago.

In a statement, the Calgary Police Service said it is grieving alongside the Nelson department and "will remember how proudly Const. Tittemore served Calgarians and residents of Nelson."

Nelson Mayor Janice Morrison said Tittemore was passionate about getting outdoors and into the backcountry and loved ski touring and backpacking.

Fisher said an RCMP chaplain who happened to be staying at a hotel in Nelson on an unrelated matter when the tragedy unfolded had volunteered to speak to grieving officers.

The chief said support workers trained to help officers after a critical incident will be made available to those who are grieving.

— By Ashley Joannou in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 11, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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