UPDATE: Four Comox Valley skiers surprised by avalanche rescued and recovering
Four skiers caught in an avalanche Tuesday afternoon in Strathcona Provincial Park — including an 18-year-old who suffered a suspected leg injury — have been rescued and are recovering from the incident.
Members of 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron assisted members of Comox Valley Ground Ground Search and Rescue (CVGSAR) to search for the four stranded Comox Valley men, whose ages range from 18 to 30.
Police confirm the skiers, who were near Moat and Circlet lakes, used a cellphone to call for help around 2:10 p.m. Tuesday.
CVGSAR, based out of Raven Lodge at Mount Washington, reached them around 10 p.m., and stabilized the injured skier, who was in chest-deep snow lying at the base of a 25-foot cliff.
The avalanche was outside Mount Washington Alpine Resort's boundaries.
Capt. Trevor Reid, public affairs officer for 19 Wing Comox confirmed crews of a Cormorant helicopter and Buffalo Search and Rescue airplane left the base at 11:30 p.m. and arrived in the search area, five kilometres southwest of Mount Washington, near Helen McKenzie Lake, a short time later.
Illuminating the area with high-intensity parachute flares, the Cormorant lowered two search and rescue technicians (SAR Techs) 170 feet to begin the extraction.
"The conditions were very turbulent, and visibility was low,” said Capt. Blair Turner, first officer of the Cormorant. “The winds were approximately 50 km/h, which made the hoists challenging.”
SAR Tech Sgt. Dan Verret noted conditions were very cold on the mountain, and rescuers warmed up water and gave it to the GSAR members and the patient.
"As we worked to put the patient in a litter, we were frequently hit by chunks of snow falling from the trees that had been left by the avalanche’s path," he added.
The injured skier was flown to CFB Comox, where he was transferred by ambulance in stable condition at 3:20 a.m. Wednesday.
The three other skiers were brought out of the avalanche area by CVGSAR.