VANCOUVER — Members of a popular YouTube travel blogging collective are among the three people who died after being swept into one of the pools at Shannon Falls in Squamish Tuesday.
Family members of Ryker Gamble confirmed his passing to Postmedia in a statement. Friends and social media posts identified Alexey Lyakh and Megan Scraper as the others killed. The trio were all in their late 20s and early 30s.
Gamble was part of a travel vlogging group known as High on Life SundayFundayz that counted more than a million followers on Instagram alone. The group aimed to inspire those watching to “embrace all of life’s opportunities with a positive outlook and energy.”
Messages of condolences and tributes poured in online from friends, family and followers.
“The world has lost a great human being with the passing of Ryker Gamble. Your bright personality will be greatly missed,” one person wrote on Facebook.
“May you have many adventures where you are now,” another wrote.
The adventure group’s core members were a trio consisting of Gamble, Lyakh and a third surviving friend. They began making videos in high school and maintained their friendships despite attending separate universities. Their lifelong bond eventually rose to success when they began travelling and compiling footage of their adventures, posting it for millions of viewers.
Gamble, Lyakh and another group member, Justis Price Brown, made headlines in 2016 and earned bans from U.S. federal lands after they participated in an out-of-bounds excursion on a sensitive hot spring in Yellowstone National Park. They were ordered to pay fines and served a week in jail.
Scraper, Lyakh’s girlfriend, launched her own social media marketing business that came with travelling around the world. A post last month showed Scraper and Lyakh celebrating five years together.
On Tuesday, the three had hiked up Shannon Falls and went into one of the pool systems to swim. When Scraper slipped and fell, Lyakh and Gamble attempted to save her but were all also swept away into a pool system 30 metres below
A delicate search and rescue operation stretching into two days turned into a recovery mission. Wednesday evening, Squamish RCMP confirmed that emergency crews made an aerial drop into the steep mountainside area with rope access, and recovered the bodies.
“Currently all teams are being cleared from the area until then the park remains closed. I can’t say enough about the incredible skilled work done today by the RCMP teams along with Squamish SAR,” said Cpl. Sascha Banks in a statement.
Heavy water flow and an extremely difficult terrain were a challenge for the crew involved in the efforts. Shannon Falls runs through a number of pool systems, and the one which the three had gone into was accessible, Banks said.
“There’s some accessible trails from the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola as well as you can hike up the sides of Shannon Falls to get to that area,” she said.
“It looks beautiful, it’s a sunny day, but given the extensive water flow that comes off the mountains, and the number of incidents that we’ve had in the Squamish area lately, people just need to be prepared.”
Since the Sea to Sky Gondola opened in 2014, the location has been gaining popularity from both locals and tourists. But in light of this tragedy, the RCMP and Squamish SAR are reminding the public that the pool systems and hard to reach areas can pose a serious risk.
“Unless you have the knowledge of that area, the expertise and the right equipment you should not be up there,” Banks said.
John Willcox of Squamish SAR, said they have responded to a number of accidents in the pools, though adds that this is the first fatality he has responded to.
“We’ve had a number of dogs that have gone into the water, and people that have slipped into the water as well. Fortunately in the past they have been able to be rescued,” Willcox said.
“The granite there is beautify carved by the water over hundreds of years, and it’s very slick, and with the spray and some of the lichen that builds up on it, people don’t realize how slippery it is.”
While the team responds to nearly 100 calls every year, Willcox said he expects it to go over the average this year.
“Every year seems to be busier and busier,” he said. “And with more volume comes more responses.”