Grouse Mountain

David Koch - Strange deaths on Canadian mountains

David Koch, disappeared May 25th, 2005, Body found June 7, 2005, Grouse Mountain, British Columbia

David Koch Grouse Mountain death

Dave Koch, 36, a publisher for the technology magazine DM Weekly called his wife at 7.30 pm on Wednesday, May 25th, 2005 to tell her he was on his way from a business meeting in Seattle to one in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He told her he planned to watch the sunset on Grouse Mountain once he got into town.

Grouse mountain

Grouse Mountain is one of the North Shore Mountains of the Pacific Ranges in the District Municipality of North Vancouver and is 1,200 m (4,000 feet) in altitude at its peak. It is the site of an alpine ski area, Grouse Mountain Resort, which overlooks Greater Vancouver with four chairlifts servicing 26 runs.  Public access to the mountain top is by a Swiss Garaventa aerial tramway, or the Grouse Grind hiking trail (Open for hiking May-October.)

Grouse Grind trail

Grouse Grind trail

Credit card slips and video show that Dave purchased a ticket for the Skyride tram at around 8pm. The Skyride operates 365 days a year, departing every 15 minutes from 8.45am to 10.00pm. He was seen riding up by other passengers at 8.30pm, then walking for about 10 minutes in the atrium at the top of the mountain. Later, video revealed he left the atrium and headed to either the visitor's booth or the bathroom. He was wearing sandals and light clothes and no hiking boots. At that point he vanished. 

Dave's laptop, business suit and cell phone were left in the rental vehicle, which was found Friday, May 27th in the parking lot near the tram.

He had been to Grouse Mountain by himself and with his wife Suzanne before as he travelled to Vancouver around twice a year due to his business. Though it was late in the day, he probably knew the route he had in mind and that he could make it back down before it got dark.  

CCTV footage showed him taking long and purposeful strides, knowing he would have to hurry to make his desired destination as he glances at the clock at the upper gondola terminal. Sunset that night was just half an hour later, so he checked the time as he never wore a watch. The clock located near the surveillance camera made it seem like he was glancing around, when in fact he probably was looking directly at the clock. 

Koch's wife, flew to B.C. from Wisconsin shortly after her husband went missing and maintained her determination to find him throughout the frustrating search. She said during the search that her husband was an avid outdoorsman who would "rather be in nature than go for a beer or a round of golf."

More than 400 people spent 10 days scouring the trails and bush on the mountain looking for Dave.  

Grouse Grind trail

On Monday, June 6th, 2005, a solo searcher who had been combing the trails and woods of Grouse Mountain for more than a week looking for clues in disappearance of Koch noted the location of a circling eagle and returned first thing Tuesday morning. That day he had hiked up and down the mountain three times. The 50 year old, worked independently of North Shore Search and Rescue, but cooperated and communicated with the team and was very familiar with the trails on Grouse Mountain.

Just before noon, the anonymous searcher discovered the body in a drainage gully east of the Grouse Grind, 650 metres east of the Bluffs Trail, where it had likely been carried down the mountain by rainwater and snow melt run-off. The steep gully was strewn with rocks, logs and other debris.

Strangely, searchers and dogs went over the area where Koch's body was found several times but failed to turn up any clues. The team speculated it was because the body was submerged in a pool of water. George Zilahi, the operations manager for the volunteer-based North Shore Search and Rescue said "Those gullies are usually dry except in areas where there are depressions in the rock where there may be pools of water. He more than likely was in a pool and then when the heavy rains came on Sunday the water level would have risen and then he would have been carried downstream and then onto this portion of the creek-bed."

It appeared he had left the tram station and walked towards the top of the Bluff Trail, arriving at around 9pm, sunset. The authorities believe he fell at that point due to his footwear. 

Dave's body was airlifted out to the coroner's office Tuesday afternoon, where the precise cause of death was determined as hypothermia. 

North Vancouver RCMP Const. John MacAdam said there was no evidence of foul play and "it appears to have been an accidental death."

What happened to Dave Koch that day? He was clearly in a rush to get to somewhere on Grouse Mountain since he arrived at the Skyride terminal late in the day at 8.30pm, with sunset less than half an hour later. Did he trip whilst on the Grouse Grind trail in fading light and fall into the steep gully? As MacAdam said, probably accidental death but who knows what happened on that mountain that evening.

It was strange that his body was discovered in an area searched twice before, but the search and rescue blamed the fact that Dave's body was apparently obscured by water. A case which on the face of it appears to be misadventure whilst hiking without the right footwear and clothing but who knows.