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Japan avalanche: Second New Zealand victim named as tour guide Joshua Sellens

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A Kiwi adventure company owner has been named as the second New Zealander who died in an avalanche while backcountry skiing in Japan.

Japan Today is reporting Joshua Sellens, a 33-year-old guide, and fellow New Zealander Isabella Bolton, 21, residents of Kutchan, were killed in the avalanche that struck Mt Yotei in Hokkaido on Monday.

The pair were among a party of six who were backcountry skiing.

A third New Zealander, Lars Meier Blattner, 21, a resident of the town of Rankoshi, suffered a shoulder injury, according to the Kyodo News.

Joshua Sellens, 33, has been named as the second victim of an avalanche that killed him and fellow New Zealander Isabella Bolton while backcountry skiing in Hokkaido, Japan. Photo / Facebook
Joshua Sellens, 33, has been named as the second victim of an avalanche that killed him and fellow New Zealander Isabella Bolton while backcountry skiing in Hokkaido, Japan. Photo / Facebook

Sellens is listed as the co-founder of Japan-based adventure company Niseko Zen.

“He pretty much lives in ski boots during the winters, chasing steep and deep lines across Hokkaido, sipping that always inviting, piping hot tea above the most exhilarating skiing this island has to offer,” the company’s website says.

In an earlier statement, the family of Bolton, 21, told the Herald she was “full of vitality and passion for life”.

Isabella Bolton, 21, of Christchurch, died in an avalanche on Mt Yotei. Photo / Supplied
Isabella Bolton, 21, of Christchurch, died in an avalanche on Mt Yotei. Photo / Supplied

“Born in Watford, England, Isabella grew up in Diamond Harbour and Heathcote Valley, attending Rangi Ruru Girls’ High School,” the statement said.

“Isabella was full of vitality and passion for life. Her adventurous spirit and love for skiing and the outdoors led her to study for a Diploma in Outdoor Adventure Guiding in Banff, Canada.”

The family said Isabella worked on skifields in Canada, Tekapo and Wānaka, and in November she travelled to Japan to pursue a job in Niseko, where she “thrived” as a ski guide.

Isabella Bolton travelled to Japan to pursue a job in Niseko, where she worked as a ski guide. Photo / Supplied
Isabella Bolton travelled to Japan to pursue a job in Niseko, where she worked as a ski guide. Photo / Supplied

The family extended their “deepest sympathy” to the family and friends of her colleague and friend whose life was also lost.

“And to extend our gratitude to those who tried to save Isabella, and the local authorities.”

Japanese police told local media that emergency services in the town of Kutchan received a call for help about 11am on Monday.

A man in his 30s and a woman in her 20s were taken in an unresponsive state to hospital, where they were pronounced dead. A third person was injured.

According to Kyodo News, the Hokkaido branch of the Japanese Society of Snow and Ice said that, based on a field survey conducted on Tuesday, the incident was a “surface avalanche”, in which a fresh layer of snow comes loose and slides downward, measuring about 2km in length and up to 20m wide.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson confirmed to the Herald on Tuesday it was aware of the “tragic incident”.

“Following the avalanche, Japanese police have confirmed that two New Zealanders have sadly passed away.

“The New Zealand Embassy has offered consular support to the families of those involved.”

Japanese police told local media that emergency services in the town of Kutchan received a call for help about 11am on Monday.
Japanese police told local media that emergency services in the town of Kutchan received a call for help about 11am on Monday.

The Japan Times also reported the Sapporo District Meteorological Observatory stated that no avalanche warning was issued for the Mt Yotei area, nor was it snowing heavily around the time of the incident.

The estimated snowfall for the 48-hour period through the time of the incident was 5- 10cm, not conducive to avalanche conditions.

Local media also reported another avalanche was struck at 12.40pm on Monday at Mt Iwao-nupuri, about 15km west of Mt Yotei.

According to the local fire department, one person believed to be a foreign national was injured at the site.

Mt Yotei, in Northern Japan, stands at 1898m and straddles towns that include Kutchan and Niseko.



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