A SEVEN-year-old boy was playing with his siblings when heavy snow buried and killed him at Mount Buller on Wednesday.
The death has rippled throughout a tight-knit community with resort chief executive John Huber describing it as a “tragic and devastating” incident.
The family, from Roxburgh Park in Melbourne, were holidaying at the snow and the three children were playing just metres from the lodge they were staying at.
Acting Sgt Matt Bennett said the boy’s father rang police about 5pm after the family frantically searched for about 20 minutes for the boy who seemingly disappeared.
A search party was launched and two hours later, a ski patrol found the boy buried about a metre underneath the snow and just 40 metres from where he was last seen playing.
“We believe there’s been some sort of slide off the roof of a building that’s engulfed him,” Sgt Bennett said.
The boy, who was in cardiac arrest, was taken to the Mount Buller Medical Centre where he was unable to be resuscitated.
Sgt Bennett, who described the death as a “tragic accident”, said the family returned to Melbourne on Wednesday night.
“They were very distraught right from the outset,” he said.
Mr Huber said the death had shaken the whole community and the resort had offered counselling.
“We are a tight community,” he said.
“Our triumphs are made sweeter and our tragedies are diminished because we do it as a team ... but it means it’s very, very difficult.”
Other resort staff said they were still recovering from the death of a young man who got lost on the snow fields and froze to death in 2010.
They said it could have been any of their own.
Mr Huber said the resort would review the safety of its properties and property owners were taking a range of precautions, though there was no direct solution to snow build-up on resort roofs.
“We always take any opportunity to review the way we run the resort,” he said.
Wally Morrell has lived at Buller for 45 years and he helped built the lodge, called Hima, that the boy and his family were staying at.
“I’ve never seen snow coming off that side of the roof in bulk like it before,” Mr Morrell said.
“It’s never been a problem.”
Premier Denis Napthine expressed sympathy for the boy’s family at a news conference yesterday.
Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Terry Ryan said there was a near white-out when the boy disappeared and visibility was poor.