Campbell River Search & Rescue had a busy day with four calls in 48 hours. Campbell River Search & Rescue was first dispatched Thursday morning at 0930 to respond to the West Coast Trail near Tsusiat Falls, a male had become trapped on a ledge near the Tsusiat Falls after climbing up to explore, he couldn’t go up or down and called for help. Parks Canada contacted us to provide our Class D Fixed Line Helicopter Rescue Team, this is a speciality team trained in long line rescue of subjects in hard to reach terrain. Our team flew to the West Coast and performed the rescue of the subject from the side of the waterfalls and turned him over to Parks Canada Public Safety Officers on scene, the subject was uninjured in the event. This is a great example of our CDFL team providing this service to the entirety of Vancouver Island. Campbell River SAR is the only SAR team on the island with this speciality rescue capability, we serve the entire island from tip to tip plus the inlets up the coast to Bella Coola with this rescue service. We used it a few weeks ago in Strathcona Park for a hiker who had become stranded on a steep snowy mountain ledge. It’s very effective rescue technique, to be able to long line in a rescue technician to a small area, basically if you can stand with your feet together on the ground we can land a technician there and affect a rescue of someone who has become injured or stuck in remote terrain. It saves a ground crew from hours of extended hiking in unsafe terrain and allows us to land advanced medical and rescue personnel to evacuate someone quickly that might have taken hours and involved numerous people. We train on a regular basis with our local helicopter providers to fine tune our skills like deep canopy insertion, medical rescue, water rescue and other long line techniques.
Later on the same night at 1030 were paged to provide rescue to 4 people on King’s Peak near Gold River who had set off a PLB, Personal Locator Beacon emergency signal. We were mobilizing for that call when we simultaneously received another call of a missing male in the Morton Lake area. A male had gone for a hike and had not returned by nightfall. We were in the process of splitting our resources to attend both calls when we were informed the RCMP had contacted 442 Rescue Squadron out of CFB Comox and the Cormorant helicopter was going to attempt a rescue of the King’s Peak group, we were on standby for a first light deployment if the Cormorant was unsuccessful, so we moved our resources to Morton lake. Our teams quickly located the missing male at Morton Lake near the campground, about the same time we learned 442 was successful in evacuating the 4 subjects from King’s Peak. Overall it was a very busy day for our teams, ending into two task wrapping up in the early morning of July 01. Saturday Morning we were tasked again to use our Helicopter Fixed Line Rescue Team to assist Comox Valley SAR to rescue a female who had fallen and received serious injuries near Auger Point Mountain in Strathcona Park. Comox Valley SAR had already attended and packaged the subject and our fixed line helicopter rescue team was needed to remove the subject from a steep rocky slope, Our team lifted the subject and transported her a short distance to another helicopter stationed nearby. She was then transported to the Courtenay Airpark where she was transferred to BCAS service
We fully expect a busy summer; typically our summers involve a lot of medical rescue from Strathcona Park and responding to PLB for lost/injured individuals in the back country.
We train for these event all year with alpine rescue, advanced first aid, water rescue, rope rescue, K9 tracking, so when we are called we are able to deploy rapidly in remote areas, Several weeks ago our Swift Water Response Team flew to Bella Coola to do a river search for an individual who jumped into the fast moving Bella Coola River. So far this year we have been to the south island to look for dementia walk away subjects, over to the extreme west coast outside of Port Alice for a body recovery and to Sayward for overdue boaters. Campbell River SAR is responsible for as massive piece of real estate, our area of response stretches from the Oyster River north to Bella Coola and east to Bute Inlet and west to Brooks Peninsula, in a typical year we will have boots on the ground in all points north south east and west. Traditionally we use helicopters a lot due to the vast distances we have to cover, the recent flight to Bella Coola was over a 3 hours return trip cramped in a helicopter with rescue gear. We couldn’t access these remote areas by ground, so we rely on flights or boats. People explore some pretty remote areas in BC and when they get hurt of lost it’s up to one of the 80 SAR groups and 2500 SAR volunteers in BC to find and rescue you. All SAR teams in BC are 100% volunteer.
If there is one piece of advice we can pass on to the public its plan your trip well, ensure you have enough food, water and have thoughtfully planned your route and based the time against your ability. Every year we rescue people who got in over their heads, ran out of food or energy half way through a multiday backpacking trip because they underestimated the terrain or their ability.
Injuries happen and generally can’t be avoided so having a form of communication is essential, no one should venture into the back country without some form of calling back to town, cell phones will not work in the remote reaches of most areas outside of Campbell River, Sat phones are great and can be rented for reasonable cost, or invest a rescue beacon especially one that has two way messaging capabilities, this will allow us to talk to you and better help us in finding you. Don’t forget to register your beacon as well, this info provides us with valuable subject profile data during the investigation phase of the search.
For more information on safe back country travel visit www.adventuresmart.ca