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Mountain guide dies after falling into a crevasse in Banff National Park

A man who fell into a crevasse while leading a backcountry ski group deep in the Canadian Rockies has died.

Friends have identified the man as Rob Coppollilo, a husband, father and the owner of Vetta Mountain Guides based out of Seattle, Washington.

Close friend and professional colleague, Brian Lazar, said Coppollilo was leading a trip when the accident happened and his friend had all the right safety measures in place at the time.

“They were probing safe areas, making sure that the clients were adhering and sticking very close to the established track that they had probed and made sure it was safe from crevasse threat,” Lazar said.

On April 18, Parks Canada officials said they received an emergency call from Icefall Lodge, located in a remote area near the Lyell Icefield, about someone who had fallen into a crevasse near Christian Peak in Banff National Park.

Rescuers responded by Alpine Helicopters to the site near the Alberta-BC boundary to find the skier had been extracted and members of the group were providing first aid.

Officials said Coppollilo was in the crevasse for about an hour.

“The visitor safety specialists continued first aid and transported the seriously injured skier to Lake Louise where they were transferred to STARS air ambulance,” said James Eastham with Parks Canada.

STARS confirmed that they then transported the patient suffering from injuries “sustained from a fall in a mountainous area” to Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary.

Stuart Brideaux, a public education officer with Alberta Health Services, said EMS also had ground crews respond to the helipad in Lake Louise and stressed this was a very large collaborative response among many agencies.

“The timing would have had to have been crucial to allow these things to line up. Initially being able to find him and retrieve him in very short order was very, very key obviously. The cold environment in which this occurred as well was a positive factor of all things in this situation,” he said.

“Being able to coordinate between not one but two helicopters to initiate this rescue and ground units to provide that care was all very important.”

Despite rescue efforts, Lazar said Coppollilo suffered severe hypothermia, remained unresponsive in hospital and passed away shortly after.

A GoFundMe page set up on behalf of the family has raised more than $42,000 of its $50,000 goal.

“Robert was a mountain guy, but that was a drop in the bucket of painting the picture of his whole personality,” Lazar said. “He was,  at this stage of his life, certainly a very competent and experienced mountain guy but also a husband, (and)  a really loving father to two twin boys.

Skier Rob Coppolillo and his family.

“He was (also) a prolific author who wrote for all kinds of outdoor publications,” Lazar added. “He was a former bike racer, so he has written guides and manuals to both kinds of bike racing and bike maintenance.”

“This is an unimaginable loss for Rebecca, Dominic, Luca, and countless friends worldwide. While Rebecca and the boys are strong, support from their friends far and wide is helping to bolster them as they endeavor to navigate their new world without Rob,” wrote the page’s author, Michelle Lazar.

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