Natural Resources

Avalanches

Date: March 4, 1935

Location: Corner Brook, Curling Road

Easting: 428500

Northing: 5423000

Latitude: 48° 58' 00" N

Longitude: 57° 57' 00" W

Fatalities: 3

Injuries: 0

Source: Western Star, Mar 06, 1935. Daily News obituary summary

Corner Brook lies on the edge of the Bay of Islands, nestled under steep slopes along the side of Humber Arm. The town centre lies on relatively flat land, but as the town expanded, houses were built along the foot of steeper slopes, thus making them vulnerable to avalanche.

The worst avalanche in this area took place in 1935. A house belonging to a Mr. Allen, located about 50 feet up a slope off Curling Road housed two families. The Prosper family (Mrs. Prosper and eight children) occupied the upper floor, and the Diamond family the lower. Mr. Diamond was at work at the mill, leaving his wife and three children at home. The Diamonds, originally from Nameless Cove, presumably moved to Corner Brook to work at the mill. The house was hit by an avalanche at around 2 pm on Monday, 4th March, 1935. The Western Star described the avalanche as being caused by the displacement of a patch of snow "about fifty feet square, and a depth of from eighteen inches and two feet". Although apparently of small volume, the avalanche was very destructive. It swept the house from its foundation down slope to rest against another house. The top story collapsed down onto the ground floor, trapping the occupants.

Amazingly the entire Prosper family escaped essentially unscathed- they had apparently all been in bed in the front room when the avalanche struck, and the first thing they could recall is a resounding crash, and the house coming to rest against the lower house, with the corner of that house's roof projecting through the wall of the room. They escaped through the windows of the bedroom.

The Diamond family was less fortunate, however. When the house came to rest the entire family was buried under a mass of debris and snow. Once the Prosper family had been rescued, efforts immediately started to try and locate them. A rescuer crawled into an opening in the collapsed lower story and after hearing the cry of a child was able to locate the kitchen area where the family had been sitting. The entire lower story had collapsed down to no more than a foot in height, and rescuers used axes to cut through walls and floor of the upper part of the house to reach the victims. After a short period of hard work they lifted a board to discover a 7 year old boy (Albert?) with his legs pinned beneath a section of concrete chimney, and surrounded by pieces of the stove. Great care had to be exercised removing him, but he was carefully extracted alive. Further excavation revealed the body of his sister, apparently killed instantaneously, as the head and body were "terribly crushed". Further excavation took place but was hampered by the knowledge that care had to be taken so as not to further injure those buried. The last two victims were finally uncovered, a two year old girl and her mother. The Western Star reported on the sad scene:

"It was during the freeing of the infant from the surrounding wreckage that the rescuers were confronted with the saddest sight in connection with the tragedy; the uncovering of the lifeless body of the mother. One cold, limp arm was extended protectingly around the child, while it was plainly evident that the protection of the mother's body, which had taken the crushing force of the collapsing walls, had in some measure protected the child. Mrs. Diamond had died in the great gesture characteristic of motherhood".

Unfortunately her heroism was in vain, as the child (named Blanche) died the following morning in hospital. The exact location of the Diamond/ Prosper house is not known, but lies between Corner Brook and Curling, probably below Crow Hill. The avalanche was likely triggered by very heavy snowfall - on the same day reports from Exploits indicated snow had drifted to 25 feet in some places, and an avalanche partly destroyed the house of George Jacobs (a single man of 49 living with his sister Lillian).

 
Last Updated:
This page and all contents are copyright, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, all rights reserved.