Hundreds gather for memorial service for Bradford and Kontor 

Sled cleared in death of lifties

Framed photo of Joshua Bradford and Benjamin Konto will hang in the liftie staff room. Photo submitted
  • Framed photo of Joshua Bradford and Benjamin Konto will hang in the liftie staff
    room. Photo submitted

By Alison Taylor

There was nothing wrong with the snowmobile that carried two young Australians to their deaths on Whistler Mountain, according to the mechanical investigation.

"I can tell you there was nothing out of the ordinary that resulted from the mechanical report," said RCMP Sergeant Marc Lavergne.

The mechanical investigation, which was conducted in Pemberton and finalized last week, was to determine if the snowmobile had any major mechanical flaws such as failing breaks or insecure steering.

That could have revealed some clues about the sequence of events that led to the deaths of Joshua Bradford and Benjamin Kontor on Monday, June 5. Both men were in their early twenties and came to Whistler to work for a season like thousands of their countrymen.

They were riding on a snowmobile on a green run near the Emerald Chair, in between shifts on the mountain, when the machine left the run and went over a five-foot embankment into trees and rocks. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.

"We know that it was very quick," said Coroner Jan MacFayden.

The preliminary results of the investigation reveal that Bradford and Kontor both died of "multiple injuries."

The full autopsy and toxicology reports will not be available for at least another two weeks. At that time investigators will be able to determine if the victims had any alcohol or drugs in their systems but Lavergne said there is no early indication either man was impaired.

Hundreds of friends and a few family members, who had flown to Whistler to accompany the bodies back to Australia, were part of a memorial service on Thursday, June 8 at Rebagliati Park.

Bradford and Kontor’s Whistler friends shared fond memories of the past winter season while their families told stories about the men before they came to Whistler.

Several close friends and family members sprinkled rose petals in Fitzsimmons Creek as a final tribute.

"It really was a celebration of their lives and a great opportunity for friends and family to share their memories of the two gentlemen – how they remembered them and how much they loved this place and (how they) really were having the time of their lives," said Whistler-Blackcomb’s Tabetha Boot, who attended the service.

Bradford, of Sydney, came to Whistler with his fiancée Ashleigh on the last leg of a world trip. They arrived earlier in the year.

Kontor was from Perth and also came to Whistler early in 2006 after studying at Edith Cowan University in Perth and working for a year.

The investigation into their deaths is still ongoing.

Sgt. Lavergne said the police have nothing to indicate the men were driving irresponsibly or at an excessive speed. However, he said there’s "no doubt" the slushy spring conditions played a role in the accident.

"I don’t think that we can lay blame in any area except that it’s just an unfortunate set of circumstances," he said.

"We’re investigating it and whether we’ll have all the answers to all these questions at the end of it… we may not."

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Kontor’s body arrived in Sydney on Friday, accompanied by his brother and sister, and was later flown home to Perth.

Bradford’s body arrived in Sydney on Monday, accompanied by his father, his fiancée and her mother.

Funerals will be held on both sides of the country for the men this week.

The families of the men have asked any donations in their names be sent to the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) and the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program (WASP).


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