Rescue crews have recovered the bodies of five snowshoers who fell 500 metres to their deaths in the mountains north of Vancouver.
Rescue teams recovered the fifth body Sunday afternoon, several hours after the other four snowshoers were located.
Martin Colwell of Lions Bay Search and Rescue called the incident “a great tragedy.”
Crews ascended Mount Harvey by helicopter late Saturday afternoon after five people went missing near the summit.
Crews postponed the search Saturday night after they determined it was too dark and dangerous to perform a rescue. The situation was described by rescuers as extremely grave.
Search crews first reported six people were missing, but later changed the number to five.
Colwell said the missing snowshoers were “part of an organized hiking group and they were climbing the standard route … up the ridge to the summit of Mount Harvey.
“One of the members was going more slowly than the others, and they all went ahead of him. By the time he reached the summit he could see their tracks there but no sign of the other five members. He looked to the north side and there was a clear break in the snow that looked like an entire cornice, which is a snow overhang, had broken off.
“It appears that these members of the group fell over that cliff when the snow broke away.”
READ MORE: Timeline of Canada’s deadliest avalanches
Family members of the victims had gathered at the local library near the search headquarters to hear the news of their loved ones and grief counsellors were there to help.
A group of three loved ones could be seen talking to victims services workers outside the facility not long after crews confirmed four bodies were recovered. The three people, a woman and two men, appeared visibly distraught.
A reverend who was in an adjacent room in the building at the time the families were notified about the recovery said he could hear people scream and sob.
Colwell said, “It’s obviously been very difficult for them.”
He said the coroner still needed to officially identify the victims and an announcement wasn’t expected until at least Monday.
It has been a particularly treacherous season in the backcountry of B.C.’s south coast.
On March 4, a 33-year-old man was killed near Whistler after a slide was triggered in the Callaghan Valley.
Another man was seriously injured after an avalanche on Hollyburn Mountain. About two weeks later a four-year-old boy and his father were partially buried in snow after getting caught in a slide in an out-of-bounds area of Blackcomb Mountain.
With files from Jon Azpiri and The Canadian Press
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.