A Newfoundlander living in British Columbia died over the weekend after he was buried in an avalanche.
A.J. Cleary, 34, is from Come By Chance. His mother, Joan Cleary, is the community’s mayor.
“It’s a very difficult time for everybody,” said Deputy Mayor Keith Best, who used to babysit Cleary as a child. “Our thoughts, well wishes and prayers certainly go out to the family. It’s terrible, terrible news. The whole community is affected by something like this.”
According to several media reports, Cleary was riding with a group of snowmobilers in the Keefer Lake area on Saturday, approximately 50 kilometres east of Vernon in southern British Columbia. The avalanche left Cleary buried in several metres of snow, forcing other snowmobilers to dig him out. He later died at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
Cleary worked as a nurse and lived in Clarenville before moving to British Columbia. His wife is pregnant with the couple’s first child.
“He was certainly an outgoing young fella,” said Best. “He enjoyed life and outdoor stuff — mountain biking and snowboarding.”
Those interests were acknowledged in messages shared through social media following his death. Vernon bike shop Skyride shared a photo of Cleary Sunday evening on Facebook and reflected on his death.
“We lost a good friend and an even better person yesterday,” the company said. “A.J. Cleary has impacted so many people in our community and we will forever remember his passion for life!”
Silver Star Bike Park in Vernon echoed those words.
“It is with heavy hearts we pass on the news of the death of A.J. Cleary,” it said in a post to its Facebook page. “A friend of the mountain, coach, but most importantly, a well respected member of the community. Our sympathies to family and friends.”