Park wardens inched down an icy crack in a Rocky Mountain glacier, urgently chipping away at the ancient ice to reach a Japanese boy who had fallen in and was wedged five metres below the surface.
But their rescue effort ended in heartbreak when nine-year-old Naofumi Fukushima, who had succumbed to hypothermia, could not be revived and was pronounced dead in hospital early yesterday.
"We try to look at our actions and examine what we did in a bigger picture sense and cling to the fact that we did the best work we could under the circumstances," said Steve Blake, a Jasper National Park warden who took part in the recovery. "Our hearts go back to the family that suffered the loss."
Naofumi was hiking with his father on the toe of the Columbia Icefield on Wednesday afternoon when he stepped on a snow bridge concealing the crevasse and fell through, Mr. Blake said. The accident happened while the boy's mother and sister waited about 100 metres below at the parking lot for the popular tourist stop.
The family are temporary residents of Calgary, where Naofumi's father is a fellow at the University of Calgary medical school.
The warden's office, about 100 kilometres from the site, received the emergency call at 4 p.m. By the time the rescue crew managed to pull Naofumi out, it was 8 p.m. and he had no pulse.
"When we got there, the boy was approximately five metres down inside a very narrow crevasse, and in his fall he brought a bunch of snow and ice from the bridge that fell through and that covered him over," Mr. Blake said. CP