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Skier Dies after days lost - I'm embarassed

post #1 of 100
Thread Starter 

This is tragic, absolutely tragic.

 

http://news.sympatico.msn.cbc.ca/abc/Local/AB/ContentPosting?isfa=1&newsitemid=ab-rescue&feedname=CBC_LOCALNEWS

 

Lost skiers fought off wolves to stay alive: brother


A Montreal couple lost in the B.C. backcountry for 10 days had to fight off wolves, eat leaves, and build shelters to stay alive, the brother of the man who survived has told CBC News.

 

Marie-Josée Fortin, 44, died before help arrived on Feb. 24. Her husband, Gilles Blackburn, 51, was treated for frostbite and exposure and released from hospital Wednesday, just 24 hours after flagging down the helicopter that rescued him.

The couple got lost while skiing out of bounds at the Kicking Horse Resort near Golden on Feb. 15.

Yvon Blackburn told CBC News his brother had gone to B.C. with his wife for a romantic Valentine's getaway and ended up lost in the snowy mountains with no food or shelter. He said at one point his brother had to fight off wolves with his skis in order to survive.

He described the couple as experienced skiers who loved going off trail into the backcountry.

"We are all skiers," he said, noting that some members of his family have been on Canada's national ski team.

Blackburn said his brother told him some details of what happened before he was finally rescued.

When he and his wife got lost, they followed the tracks of another skier. With no sign of civilization in sight, Gilles, an avid hunter, went into survival mode.

"They thought they'd wait it out for the night and make it back the next day. They didn't realize it would last that long," said Blackburn.

"He knew how to sleep under the snow, cut wood, said he'd cut branches. The cold never got to them."

Blackburn said the couple ate leaves and snow to survive, and said his brother was more afraid of wolves than the temperature.

"The wolves were the most dangerous at night. They were very close."

Blackburn said his brother and sister-in-law eventually decided to stop trying to make their way to safety.

"His wife couldn't go any further, so he stayed with her and said, 'Well, now they have to find us.'"

RCMP have said they will not release the cause of Fortin's death until an autopsy is performed on Friday, but in an earlier statement police said she probably died from exposure.

Meanwhile, the RCMP said Thursday that failing to start a search for the pair was a mistake.

"There was an error on behalf of the RCMP in not initiating a call-out on Feb. 21," Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said on Thursday morning in Golden, B.C.

Even though the couple got lost on Sunday, Feb. 15, a search for them didn't begin until nine days after they disappeared, despite sightings of SOS signs scratched into the snow. SOS signs were noticed on Feb. 17, and again on Feb. 21, which is when the RCMP were first informed.

The RCMP said an internal investigation would be conducted into why a search was not initiated.

"In similar instances we do call out a search. In this instance we did not," said Moskaluk, who said normal procedure would have been to schedule a flyover of the area or a ground search.

Police said their preliminary investigation suggests the couple rented a vehicle in Calgary and were planning to travel to Banff, then on to B.C. to visit Golden and Revelstoke on a skiing holiday.

The first night they stayed in Lake Louise. They then drove to the Mountaineer Lodge near Golden at the Kicking Horse Resort, where they spent the night of Feb. 14, police said in statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

The couple checked out of the Mountaineer Lodge on Feb. 15 and went skiing at the resort. Sometime that day they went out of bounds and got lost, police said.

They had left their belongings in the rented vehicle, which was parked in an underground parkade at the Mountaineer Lodge.

The RCMP released a statement on Wednesday afternoon with details about why there had been no search.

On Feb. 17, a local heli-skiing company received a call from an off-duty ski guide touring the area saying he had spotted an SOS sign and strange tracks west of the Kicking Horse Resort, the statement said.

The Kicking Horse Resort was contacted to check if they had any reports of missing skiers. It appears at this time that the Provincial Emergency Preparedness and the local RCMP detachment were not contacted, said police.

On Feb. 21, a group returning from a ski trip saw two more SOS signs and notified officials at the heli-skiing company who in turn reported it to Golden RCMP, said police.

Staff at the Kicking Horse Resort were contacted and advised that they had previously investigated this incident with no result, said police.

Police have said previously that the Golden and District Search and Rescue Association of British Columbia then decided not to conduct a ground search of the area. But the search and rescue team has disputed that, saying only the RCMP can authorize a search for a missing person.

Meanwhile in Montreal, the couple's 19-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter remain secluded with their grandmother at the family home on a quiet street in LaSalle.

On Wednesday, the curtains were drawn on the home and Gilles Blackburn's work truck, used for his contracting business, sat outside the family duplex.

The children talked to their father after he was rescued, police said.

Neighbours described the family as sporty, always heading off somewhere with their skis or mountain bikes.

Neighbour Louise Cedilot said the daughter came over to borrow something a few days ago and mentioned her parents were on vacation and that she and her brother thought it was strange they hadn't heard from them.

Montreal police said the children reported the couple missing when the two failed to return from their ski trip on Feb. 23.

Cedilot said Fortin, a former nurse, used to come over to help her with cancer injections. Now she can hardly believe what's befallen the couple.

"It's unreal," said Cedilot. "She was so young. She was beautiful."

Cedilot's husband Michel said: "It's terrible. They're the best neighbours you could have."

 

 

I can't believe nothing was done when the SOS was spotted - TWICE!

 

I am embarassed.

post #2 of 100

It looks as if the RCMP is run by the same kind of people who let all those Australians burn to death in the wildfires, without making any effort to rescue them with helicopters.

And the head of the New Orleans FD who ordered his firefighter to leave a patient and her family behind in a flooded nursing home and fly out by himself in a chopper, during Katrina. The patient died.

And the police chief in Littleton CO who was in telephone communication with one of the Columbine shooting victims while that man was slowly bleeding to death, but wouldn't allow anyone to go in and save him until he was absolutely, positively, completely certain that none of his officers with their helmets and body armor were in danger of suffering as much as a scratch. Don't want to risk an injury to a member of the SWAT team just to save someone, do we?

Or the case in the Adirondacks where a small plane carrying a man and his dog went down, and the dog made it back to town on foot, but the local authorities couldn't be bothered to look for the plane while the pilot was still alive. 

Or the small plane crash in the eastern Sierras in which one woman survived and walked out of the mountains injured, wandered into a restaurant and asked for a glass of water, and was refused. Members of her family were out looking for the plane, and spotted her walking along a road. No search was mounted by the authorities when the plane was reported missing.

 

At least we can sleep at night, knowing that the authorities are protecting us by tracking down people who were at the party where Michael Phelps was photographed with a bong. I hear that there have been 6 arrests in that major case.

post #3 of 100

I've started and erased this post 4 times now...

 

I hope the family gets through this horrible time, I hope they can find the strength to get back out in the mountains and find joy sliding on snow.

post #4 of 100
Thread Starter 

Whiteroom - I started and stopped several times too.

 

And my embarassment does not at all eclipse my feelings for the family.  I hope they get through this trying time, and manage to find joy in the outdoors again.

 

RIP Marie-Josee.

post #5 of 100

This story brings tears to my eyes and makes me sick to my stomach.  

 

How do you wrap your mind around something like this?

 

Thoughts and prayers go out to the family.  Sad, tragic, unnecessary.

post #6 of 100

Canadian Public Broadcasting reported yesterday that one error the couple made was that after they made the SOS sign they kept moving to a new location. An official pointed out that when you make a sign you need to stay with it to be found. But overall it appears that there was a failure to lauch a search.

post #7 of 100

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phlogiston View Post

 

It looks as if the RCMP is run by the same kind of people who let all those Australians burn to death in the wildfires, without making any effort to rescue them with helicopters.

 

You have got to be kidding me.  The ignorance you have shown by this statement is offensive, you know nothing about the situation and what was and wasn't possible.  I don't know about the circumstances of any of your other 'examples' but this one I do know about.  Nobody 'let' these people burn to death, and I actually know some of them.  Shame.

 

 

post #8 of 100


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy P View Post

 

This is tragic, absolutely tragic.

 

http://news.sympatico.msn.cbc.ca/abc/Local/AB/ContentPosting?isfa=1&newsitemid=ab-rescue&feedname=CBC_LOCALNEWS

 

Lost skiers fought off wolves to stay alive: brother


Blackburn said the couple ate leaves and snow to survive, and said his brother was more afraid of wolves than the temperature.

"The wolves were the most dangerous at night. They were very close."


 

Certainly a tragedy, but these people were not very reasonable..  Wolves?  I can't find a report of wolves attacking a party of three people in all of human history.  That should have been their last concern

 

Eating leaves? What leaves in the BC backcountry in mid-winter have any food value?

 

How did they get clear out there?  What happened to the ski tracks they were following?

 

When people make so many poor choices it is hard to save them. I know a lot of BC search and rescue people. The SOS in the snow is a concern, but without a missing person report, I find it hard to fault them here.

post #9 of 100

Anyone remember the case in CA where skiers found a man's feet in ski boots? The rest of him had been eaten by animals. His car had been sitting in the ski area parking lot for weeks and no one thought that someone might be in trouble.

 

Of course, to be fair, if a car was left in the lot at Hunter or Kmart, it would have been towed away and sold at auction before anyone thought to look in the woods for an injured or dead skier. We're like that on the East Coast.

post #10 of 100


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phlogiston View Post

 

Anyone remember the case in CA where skiers found a man's feet in ski boots? The rest of him had been eaten by animals. His car had been sitting in the ski area parking lot for weeks and no one thought that someone might be in trouble.


 

No, this is the first of have heard of this.  Do you have a link to the story?

post #11 of 100

Just a suggestion:

 

Let's start a 'What could have been done differently' thread separate from this. Keep this thread as a place to express sadness at the family's loss.

post #12 of 100


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by newfydog View Post

 


 


 

Certainly a tragedy, but these people were not very reasonable..  Wolves?  I can't find a report of wolves attacking a party of three people in all of human history.  That should have been their last concern

 

.


 

Wolves are afraid of people, but they will seize an opportunity.  When wolves are hungry, as they often are in winter, fear becomes less of a factor.  Although there are not many documentations of wolves killing people, there are many situations where they will close in on people who are vulnerable..

 

Reminds me of the baby in Australia that was snatched by the Dingo.  No one believe it possible.

 

I believe the guy had to fend off wolves, that the RCMP should have acted sooner and that the skiers should have stayed in one place.  Hind sight is useless.

 

It's a tragedy.

post #13 of 100

What happened is without a doubt a tragedy, but the couple in question did absolutely everything that you're not supposed to do if going into the back country.  As a result of their actions, which prevented them from being identified as missing, an official search couldn't be launched.  The protocol was followed appropriately by local search and rescue teams and the RCMP.

 

The media only reports the "alleged" problems with the search and rescue protocol, and has not stated one word about the actions of the couple, which ultimately led to the situation unfolding as it did.

 

1) They ducked a rope and skied into out of bounds terrain they were unfamiliar with.

2) They didn't notify anyone or leave a message that they were going out of bounds, and where, which made it impossible to flag them as missing at the end of the day.

3) They were completely ill-equipped to be out of bounds.  They had only the ski clothes on their back, no emergency equipment, no cell phone, whistle, shovel, etc. etc.

4) They had checked out of their hotel that morning, loaded their car, and left it in the underground lot of the hotel.  This made it impossible to identify them as missing, or identify their car as being suspiciously in the ski area parking lot overnight.

5) After stomping out an SOS in the snow, they then did the one thing you're never supposed to do... they left the area.  A ski guide who was out of bounds noticed the SOS after the first day they were missing, called out to see if anyone was there, and got no reply.  Had they stayed put (the most basic rule of rescue) they would have been found almost immediately.

6) They moved around and left several SOS signs in the snow.  Again, the signs were spotted, but they had moved away from the signs so it couldn't be confirmed that there were actually people in distress, versus the signs being a prank.  By that time, search and rescue was already canvassing hotels, looking for overnight cars parked, etc. in an attempt to identify whether anybody was missing, but because of the actions of the couple it was impossible to identify that they were missing because i) they had checked out of the hotel, ii) they hadn't notified anyone they were going out of bounds, iii) they had hidden their car in an underground hotel parking lot.

7) The protocol is that in situations like this a search can't be launched unless people are reported as missing.  Because they hid their intentions and actions (unintentionally) they weren't reported as missing until they failed to arrive home, as per plan, ten days after they went into the back country and relatives reported them missing.

 

In my opinion, it's a horrible tragedy, but they broke every rule about going into the back country and paid the ultimate price.  There is absolutely no reason to lay any blame on the local search and rescue authorities or the RCMP.  They did their best, with little information, to try to determine if anyone was missing, as per the appropriate protocol.  Had the couple stayed put after they stomped out their first SOS sign, they would have been quickly rescued.  Had they left word that they were going out of bounds, and where, they would have been rescued.  Had they been properly equipped to be in the back country, they would have had a much higher chance of survival.


Edited by exracer - 2/28/2009 at 09:22 pm
post #14 of 100

"Had the couple stayed put after they stomped out their first SOS sign, they would have been quickly rescued. "

 

We don't know that the SOS spotted by the ski tourer for the first time was indeed THE FIRST SOS he stomped out.

 

It could also be that he stomped out several SOS and one of them was found by the bc skier?

post #15 of 100

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by newfydog View Post

 

 

 

... , but without a missing person report, I find it hard to fault them here.

Well I guess it was kind of hard for them to file the report, huh? Yeah, they made a lot of mistakes that cost one of them their life. Maybe they were ignorant, or stupid, but I still find it inexcusable that no search was launched by somebody. Perhaps someone at SAR could have suggested to RCMP that a search needed to be initiated. They did not stay by their SOS, but they did make one, I mean several, and they were seen. If there had been a rash of bogus SOSs carved in the snow if this area recently, I could understand some reluctance to start a search. KHMR checked to see if any rental equipment was late being returned, or if any visitors in any of their hotels/condos were overdue for checkout, and concluded no one was missing. Well that certainly covered all possibilities, didn't it?

 

 

 

 

About quoting newfydog and bringing attention as to how they could not have filed a report:

 

I am willing to bet that 95+% of skiers(yes I am including boarders here) that ski at a resort and venture out of bounds and back in on the same day do not tell anyone that did not go to the mountain with them that day to report them missing if they did not hear from them at a prescribed time. You hear the conversations in the tram.  "Hey, how is it going? You know, it looks pretty tracked out here.  I was not planning to go out, but check out Cody Bowl. Do you want to go with me?". The other person responds, "OK, sure. I was going to stay inbounds today too, but what the hell.  It is way tracked out."

post #16 of 100
 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phlogiston View Post

 

Anyone remember the case in CA where skiers found a man's feet in ski boots? The rest of him had been eaten by animals. His car had been sitting in the ski area parking lot for weeks and no one thought that someone might be in trouble.


Ullr:  

No, this is the first of have heard of this.  Do you have a link to the story?

 

Phlogiston:

"LeMarque heard the wolves before he saw them. There were two on his right and one on his left, closing in fast. When they were 20 feet away, LeMarque started to yell. Not screams of terror, but aggressive, boisterous shouts. He wanted to appear large and formidable, not what he really was: a helpless snowboarder lost in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevadas. LeMarque thought that if he was very loud, he would spook the beasts; if he didn’t make eye contact or if he started to run, they’d attack.

LeMarque’s strategy worked. The animals ran off. The encounter left the boarder frightened enough to fashion a weapon from a dried-out stick a few inches in diameter. Using his board as a file, he sharpened both ends of the stick into a dagger and then made notches in the middle for a better grip. It was a smart decision, considering that rescuers had recently found only the feet of Chris Foley, a lost skier who presumably had been attacked and devoured by wolves. "

 

Foley rode to the top of Chair 1 at Mammoth; went out of bounds, and was never seen again. His skis were found together "as if they'd released in a low speed fall"; later only his feet, in their boots were recovered by searchers.

 

The old links I had are dead now, and it's hard to find the archived articles.

 

post #17 of 100

Thanks, I had never heard this story before.  Wolves ate the entire skier?  That is just unreal.  Thanks for posting what you know, and taking the time to check the links for me though.  I will keep a sharp eye for the article.

post #18 of 100

Never say never.  Though attacking wolves are rare, and we have pretty much killed off most of the non human-fleeing wolves, it is not without reason that the stereotype exists.


http://www.propertyrightsresearch.org/2006/articles09/six_injured_in_rare_wolf_attack.htm

http://www.wolfpark.org/Articles/Wyman.html

http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20051111/wolf_attack_saskatoon_051111?s_name=&no_ads=

post #19 of 100

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phlogiston View Post

 


 


Ullr:  

No, this is the first of have heard of this.  Do you have a link to the story?

 

Phlogiston:

"LeMarque heard the wolves before he saw them. There were two on his right and one on his left, closing in fast. When they were 20 feet away, LeMarque started to yell. Not screams of terror, but aggressive, boisterous shouts. He wanted to appear large and formidable, not what he really was: a helpless snowboarder lost in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevadas. LeMarque thought that if he was very loud, he would spook the beasts; if he didn’t make eye contact or if he started to run, they’d attack.

LeMarque’s strategy worked. The animals ran off. The encounter left the boarder frightened enough to fashion a weapon from a dried-out stick a few inches in diameter. Using his board as a file, he sharpened both ends of the stick into a dagger and then made notches in the middle for a better grip. It was a smart decision, considering that rescuers had recently found only the feet of Chris Foley, a lost skier who presumably had been attacked and devoured by wolves. "

 

Foley rode to the top of Chair 1 at Mammoth; went out of bounds, and was never seen again. His skis were found together "as if they'd released in a low speed fall"; later only his feet, in their boots were recovered by searchers.

 

The old links I had are dead now, and it's hard to find the archived articles.

 

 

This IS a joke, right?

 

I live at groud zero of the wolf reintroduction efforts in the continental US and I've read several times that there have not been ANY wild wolves reported in California in like 50-75 or more YEARS.

 

Perhaps Mr. LeMarque ate Mr. Foley and dreamed up the story about the wolves to keep himself from being branded the new millenium's Alfred Packer?

 

 

post #20 of 100

My condolenses deffinitely go out to the family.  We all make mistakes, usually we're lucky and they aren't deadly, sometimes they are. 

 

As far as not reporting you're going out of bounds, I know when Old Boot and I skied Panorama every year there was a bowl (local knowledge run) just OB and they always asked us if we going out to ski it to report to the Patrol hut at the top of the mountain and let them know when we were leaving.  There was a 5 hour walk back in and they wanted to be sure you returned.  They never advertised this,but I think it would only be wise to make sure someone knows you're going.  A friend, call the kids and let them know, or the ski patrol.  Hopefully we all learn that lesson.

post #21 of 100


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Peters View Post

 

 

 

This IS a joke, right?

 

I live at groud zero of the wolf reintroduction efforts in the continental US and I've read several times that there have not been ANY wild wolves reported in California in like 50-75 or more YEARS.

 

Perhaps Mr. LeMarque ate Mr. Foley and dreamed up the story about the wolves to keep himself from being branded the new millenium's Alfred Packer?

 

 


 

We need to separate the two stories here.

I found an active link to the Foley story. There's no doubt his remains were found, and that most of his body had been eaten by something. There have been mountain lion attacks in CA; and if Foley died of exposure, any number of scavengers might have feasted on him.

It could even have been the last members of the Manson family who've been hiding in the mountains since 1969...

 

Vanishing point - Los Angeles Times

 

Did the snowboarder LeMarque actually see wolves? That's a separate question. Perhaps he saw coyotes or a pack of feral dogs, and couldn't tell the difference.

post #22 of 100

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phlogiston View Post

 

Anyone remember the case in CA where skiers found a man's feet in ski boots? The rest of him had been eaten by animals.

Ever watch a dog with a marrow bone? I can't get the image of a happy, tail wagging wolf gleefully trying to get the last little bit of tasty goodness out of the plastic 'bone'.

post #23 of 100

Why wouldn't the wolves just tear up the ski boot and ate what's left of the feet?

post #24 of 100


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by at_nyc View Post

 

Why wouldn't the wolves just tear up the ski boot and ate what's left of the feet?


 

I wouldn't know. Perhaps we should ask my dog, his cousins are wolves.

post #25 of 100

I've got 2 points to make.

First of all you wouldn't have found the ski boots with the guys feet in them anywhere near each other and probably not in the same 1000 acres. I know this from seeing how coyotes drag around cow bones.

Secondly people who ride the lifts and then duck the rope are not "BACK-COUNTRY SKIERS" they are "SLACK-COUNTRY SKIERS".

post #26 of 100

well, this thread is gouing about as well as expected,

 

condolences to the family

post #27 of 100


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by peatmoss View Post

 

I've got 2 points to make.

First of all you wouldn't have found the ski boots with the guys feet in them anywhere near each other and probably not in the same 1000 acres. I know this from seeing how coyotes drag around cow bones.

Secondly people who ride the lifts and then duck the rope are not "BACK-COUNTRY SKIERS" they are "SLACK-COUNTRY SKIERS".

So, you're saying the Mono County SAR website got it wrong? And the Mammoth Times as well? And you know this because you've seen some coyotes with a cow bone somewhere?
 

 

 

 
January 20 to February 1, 2004. 04-01R. Chris Foley from Los Angeles was on a solo skiing trip to Mammoth Mountain. The SAR team was called out to search for Mr Foley as he had not returned to pick up his vehicle. Investigators found that Mr. Foley's ski pass was last scanned Jan 6th on Mammoth Mountain Chair 1 or Chair 6. Searchers concentrated efforts in and near ski runs that friends had described as favorites of Mr Foley. Search assignments outside the boundary of the ski area were also completed. Ski teams searched inside and outside of the ski area, snowshoers searched the area southeast of the ski area, and a helicopter searched areas southwest of the ski area. Dog teams searched between ski runs on Mammoth Mountain. Snowmobiles were used to check all buildings from Agnew Meadows to Reds Meadow. On February 1, SAR Team searchers found remains that are believed to be Mr. Foley's near Pumice Flat, west of Mammoth Mountain. Responders were: Enright (Ops), Greene (Ops), Michalski, Holmquist, Hronesh, Zahn, Greene, Schmidt, Knoche, Rousek, Wright, Matell, and WOOF members B. Macaulay, L Macaulay, and McClintock.
 

Additional information was reported in the February 26, Mammoth Times:

 

If Chris Foley, 63, had a partner with him on January 6, Foley might have lived to tell about his skiing adventure this year. But, Foley skied alone that day, and when Mono County's SAR team finally found Foley, on February 1 (after nearly two weeks of searching), all that was left were his skis, poles, ski pass, some parts of his clothing, and his ski boots.

post #28 of 100

I stand corrected. I just can't believe they found the boots anywhere near each other but they found them none the less. Just so you know I see coyotes every day out here so I do know a little about their behavior. They used to be worth $200 when I was a teenager, and $200 would buy a lot of gas back then. 

post #29 of 100

May I need new glasses. But did I miss the sentance about his feet still in the boot?

 

All it said was "remains that are believe to be Mr. Foley's", while the second article mentioned boots. Were the feet in the boot? Or just some writer's fanciful imagination got the better of them, which was later retracted?

 

We can't accuse anyone lying for something they didn't say (or didn't mean to say at least), can we?...

 

If the whole body was eaten, including the skull, I just have a hard time there's anything left in the boot. The plastic shell of boots is no deterrance against teeth which evidently chew through bones and skulls.

post #30 of 100


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by at_nyc View Post

 

May I need new glasses. But did I miss the sentance about his feet still in the boot?

 

All it said was "remains that are believe to be Mr. Foley's", while the second article mentioned boots. Were the feet in the boot? Or just some writer's fanciful imagination got the better of them, which was later retracted?

 

We can't accuse anyone lying for something they didn't say (or didn't mean to say at least), can we?...

 

If the whole body was eaten, including the skull, I just have a hard time there's anything left in the boot. The plastic shell of boots is no deterrance against teeth which evidently chew through bones and skulls.

You're right. The bit about his feet still being in the boots was added by a later writer. Mono County Search and Rescue says nothing about feet still being in the boots.
 

Mono SAR does report that a snowmobiler lost in the same area where Foley's gear was found - Pumice Flats - was stalked by 3 coyotes, one close and two at a  distance. This is the same pattern described by the snowboarder LeMarque, who thought that they were wolves.

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