19 Wing personnel helped evacuate two hikers from Strathcona Park

RCAF Search and Rescue crews helped ground search and rescue crews Wednesday to evacuate two hikers from Strathcona Park.

RCAF Search and Rescue crews from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron provided assistance to Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue (GSAR) crews Wednesday to evacuate two hikers in Strathcona Park.

Support from 442 Squadron was requested Tuesday morning by RCMP and GSAR through Joint Rescue Coordination Centre Victoria, to aid in their search of the two men who had been reported missing on Monday.

University of Victoria student Christopher Yao, 31, and Jean-Simon Lessard, 22, who works at CFB Esquimalt, left Friday and were scheduled to return Sunday.

While GSAR crews worked hard to cover the search area from the ground throughout the operation, the Cormorant helicopter crew assisted the teams by providing aerial search capabilities and transport for GSAR members throughout the park’s challenging terrain.

Thick cloud and fog in the area posed challenges to the air search and transport efforts throughout Tuesday morning and again when another crew launched Tuesday evening. However, Wednesday morning at approximately 9:30 a.m., the crew was informed that GSAR members had found the two men safe in a tent, approximately six kilometres west of Mount Washington.

“We departed our staging area at the Raven Lodge search headquarters and headed for the coordinates GSAR members had given us,” said Captain Mike O’Brien, aircraft commander. “We did a confined area landing near a sparsely treed ridgeline at an altitude of 5,000 feet.”

Once on the ground, at approximately 10 a.m., RCAF Search and Rescue Technicians loaded the two men and four members of the Comox Valley GSAR team on board the helicopter and returned them to 19 Wing Comox.

“The hikers had good equipment and knew what they were doing,” said Master Corporal Samuel Chenelle-Pepin. “They had been in a tent and had heard the helicopter circling the previous day.  They eventually heard the GSAR whistles and were able to meet them.  They were both in good spirits when we brought them back.”

More than 30 people and 14 teams from Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue, CFB Comox and Comox Valley RCMP had searched for Yao and Lessard, who had a tent.

Paul Berry, search manager for CVGSAR, said heavy snow and thick fog made the search difficult for air and ground crews.

Mount Albert Edward, at 2,093 metres, is the sixth highest peak on Vancouver Island. It is located in Strathcona Provincial Park.

— 19 Wing Comox

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