Two New Zealand skiers killed after avalanche in Japan

<span>The avalanche hit Mount Yotei in Hokkaido, Japan, on Monday, killing two people from New Zealand. </span><span>Photograph: Jun Asano/Getty Images/Flickr RF</span>
The avalanche hit Mount Yotei in Hokkaido, Japan, on Monday, killing two people from New Zealand. Photograph: Jun Asano/Getty Images/Flickr RF

Two New Zealanders, including a 21-year-old ski guide, have been killed in avalanche while backcountry skiing in Japan.

New Zealand’s ministry of foreign affairs and trade confirmed to the Guardian two people had died in “a tragic accident” in Hokkaido. A third New Zealander was also injured.

According to local media reports, a group of six were backcountry skiing on Mount Yotei in the northern Hokkaido region on Monday morning when an avalanche struck at an elevation of 650 to 700 meters on the northern side of the 1,898 metre mountain.

The nearby Kutchan fire department was told around 11am that three members of the group had been caught in the avalanche, the Japan Times reported. A man and a woman were taken to hospital unresponsive and later were pronounced dead, while a third person sustained a shoulder injury, but was conscious, it reported.

In a statement to local New Zealand media, the family of Isabella Bolton confirmed she was a victim of the accident.

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“It is with a heavy heart that we confirm the passing of our beloved Isabella Bolton, 21, in an avalanche accident in Hokkaido, Japan on Monday 11th March,” Radio New Zealand reported, citing the family statement.

Bolton was born in England and grew up in Christchurch’s Diamond Harbour and Heathcote Valley, her family said. She had worked on ski fields in New Zealand, Canada and most recently as a ski guide in the Hokkaido ski resort Niseko.

“Isabella was full of vitality and passion for life,” and had an “adventurous spirit and love for skiing and the outdoors”, they said.

“Our family would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of her fellow colleague and friend whose life was also tragically lost. And to extend our gratitude to those who tried to save Isabella, and the local authorities.”

According to the Sapporo District Meteorological Observatory, no avalanche warning had been issued for the Mount Yotei area, nor was it snowing heavily around the time of the incident, the Japan Times reported.

The New Zealand embassy in Japan has offered consular support to the families of those involved.