2 dead in northern Japan avalanche identified as New Zealanders

Two people who died in an avalanche the previous day in Hokkaido, northern Japan, have been identified as New Zealand nationals, police said Tuesday.

Joshua Sellens, a 33-year-old guide, and Isabella Bolton, 21, residents of Kutchan, were killed in an avalanche on Mt. Yotei, which stands at 1,898 meters and straddles towns including Kutchan and Niseko. The two were among a party of six individuals, some of whom were backcountry skiing.

The avalanche on Monday morning caught three people in the group on the northern slope, slightly above the midpoint of the mountain. The hill had not been prepared as a skiing area.

Photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter on March 11, 2024, shows Mt. Yotei in the town of Kutchan, Hokkaido, shortly after a deadly avalanche occurred. (Kyodo)

The third person, identified as New Zealand national Lars Meier Blattner, 21, a resident of the town of Rankoshi, sustained a shoulder injury, according to the local police.

The Hokkaido branch of the Japanese Society of Snow and Ice said that, based on a field survey conducted Tuesday, the incident was a “surface avalanche,” in which a fresh layer of snow comes loose and slides downward, measuring approximately 2 kilometers in length and up to 20 meters in width.

Related coverage:

2 dead after avalanche hits backcountry skiers in Japan’s Hokkaido


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