RCMP dog Prince and his handler Const. George Hawkins search through a section of the 1965 slide for survivors.  Hope Standard archives

RCMP dog Prince and his handler Const. George Hawkins search through a section of the 1965 slide for survivors. Hope Standard archives

Hope in History: The Hope Slide

A monthly dive into the Standard’s archives and our community history

January 1965

The most devastating landslide in recorded Canadian history happened on Jan. 9, when 50 million tonnes of earth and debris covered a stretch of the Hope-Princeton Highway below Johnson Peak. Despite heroic efforts by a search party, including many Hope area volunteers, four people were killed. Two of them, Mary Kalmakoff and Dennis Arlitt, were never found.

Excerpts from the Hope Standard reporting following the slide:

Jan. 13:

Bodies of two young people are believed to be buried in the 50 million ton slide which swept across the Hope-Princeton highway at dawn Saturday, but police and searchers have just about given up all hope of ever finding them.

After a large bulldozer, assisted by a small rescue party, failed Wednesday to find any trace of the cab of the tanker which the pair is believed to have been sitting in, Hope RCMP officials say they felt the search would soon have to be abandoned.

The search dog (Prince) led the party to the area where they later uncovered the two bodies. Digging to recover them was all done with pick and shovel, and was made all the more difficult by an overburden of brush and big logs which had to be sawed and moved out of the way by the searchers.

Two North Vancouver RCMP Officers with special training in this type of disaster, the dog and its RCMP handler and 22 volunteer search and rescue men had been working several hours Sunday when the body of Bernie Lloyd Beck, 27, of 269 Vancouver Avenue, Penticton, was found in the cab of one of the vehicles, a hay truck.

Less than an hour later, the second man, Thomas Starchuk, 39, of 28810 South Fraser Way, Aldergrove, was found.

Still missing are Mary Kalmakoff, 23, of Penticton, and Dennis Arlitt, 23, of Penticton. They were traveling together, in company with Beck.

Construction men and geologists estimated there was upwards of 50 million tons of rock, snow and debris in the slide. They reconstructed the events of early Saturday this way: The snow slide shortly after 4 a.m. set up a vibration which shook the mountain which is about a mile north of the highway.

Based on their experience, they felt that the vibration caused material at the base of the mountain to crumble allowing the entire face of the mountain to fall, and shoot outwards toward the highway to the south.

Highways Minister P.A. Gaglardi believes there was an earthquake in the area.

Hundreds of man hours, nearly all by volunteers and RCMP personnel, were spent searching and digging the area where the bodies of Beck and Starchuck were found Sunday.

Hope Search & Rescue Group members took part in the search Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. They were joined by seven members of the Princeton Search & Rescue group Sunday and three members of the Chilliwack Search and Rescue Corps Monday.

A number of Hope women volunteered their services on the Civil Defence feeding unit.

Jan. 20:

Department of Highway officials expect to have the Hope-Princeton highway open for traddic by 8 a.m. Friday.

Spokesmen warned that the tote road will be pretty rough for the next week and said that vehicles may even get bogged down in places.

The Standard is reviving the monthly Hope in History feature, diving into the archives of the Standard and into our community history. If you want to see a specific event or story featured here, email news@hopestandard.com.

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