February 18

This Day in History

Disaster

Feb 18, 1965:

Avalanche kills 26 in British Columbia

Twenty-six people are killed in a glacial slide and avalanche on this day in 1965 in British Columbia, Canada. The victims were miners who were removing copper ore from underneath a glacier.

The Granduc Mining Company camp was in the town of Stewart, near the border of British Columbia and Alaska. The company had drilled an 11-mile tunnel through the Leduc glacier to access the deep vein of copper that ran beneath it. On February 18, a loud roar warned some miners of the mass of snow and ice crashing down the glacier toward the camp, and a radio operator was able to make a call to the camp before it was buried by snow. Still, 40 people were trapped. The rescue effort began immediately. Emergency teams, including members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Air Force, had to be brought in by helicopter because there was no easy access to the site by road. A U.S. Coast Guard boat was used as a hospital for the injured survivors.

One miner, Einar Myllyla, was trapped very close to leading edge of the avalanche, unbeknownst to the rescuers. For three days, he was trapped under the snow in an air pocket, as helicopters landed just several feet away. Finally, on February 21, a bulldozer accidentally uncovered him. Fortunately, he was still alive.

Storm conditions worsened as the week progressed, and by February 26, the rescue and relief effort had to be halted even though seven people were still missing. Their bodies were not recovered until the spring.

In the aftermath of this disaster, the mining tunnel at Leduc was redesigned. Mining continued there for nearly 20 years after the deadly avalanche.

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