Search and Rescue volunteers soldier on during hectic week

Members of Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue, still shaken after a volunteer drowned July 29 during a retrieval mission near Creston, worked round the clock last week with two major searches and three rescues in six days.

SEARCH AND RESCUE dog in training Tweed earns air miles as she participates with other members of Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue during their annual recertification in hover exit and entrance procedures.

SEARCH AND RESCUE dog in training Tweed earns air miles as she participates with other members of Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue during their annual recertification in hover exit and entrance procedures.

Members of Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue, still shaken after a volunteer drowned July 29 during a retrieval mission near Creston, worked round the clock last week with two major searches and three rescues in six days.

In the midst of all  this they maintained their commitment to Canada Day events and the Ducky 500 although with greatly reduced personnel as they were still involved in a search on Hornby Island.

The rash of calls began with the search last week for 16-year-old Orlando Graham,  the Hornby Island resident who disappeared while kayaking near Tribune Bay last Wednesday evening. CVGSAR alone committed some 2,500 man hours to this search effort over multiple days with the Hornby Island Fire Department, Coast Guard, RCMP and 442 Squadron also committing significant time and resources.

Sadly, despite all this, Orlando is still missing and is presumed lost at sea. CVGSAR extends it condolences to Orlando’s family and friends and wishes to thank the members of the Hornby Island community for their support and kindness throughout the search.

On Monday, CVGSAR was again activated to support BC Ambulance in the medical evacuation of a mountain biker injured in the trails near Comox Lake dam.

CVGSAR got back-to-back calls July 5, the first a rescue on Comox Lake of a couple whose power boat and broken down on Comox Lake and was about to wash up on the rocks.

As CVGSAR members were beginning to load their boat at Comox Lake, the pager sounded yet again, calling for the rescue of a stranded tuber in the Puntledge river.

The already-suited team responded immediately, launching its Rapid Deployment Craft (RDC) with three Swift Water Rescue Technicians aboard  at the Condensory Bridge and paddled downstream to find a young Courtenay resident clinging to the rocks below just downstream of where the Tsolum River enters the Puntledge.

The teen, a first-time tuber unfamiliar with the river, had launched from the hatchery and had intended to meet friends at the Condensory bridge but was washed further downstream.

The  teen was provided a life jacket, and swift water helmet and was transported downstream aboard the RDC  to Lewis Park to be reunited with his friends and examined by BC Ambulance crews.  As no injuries were suffered, he was treated for embarrassment and released wiser and hopefully more water wise.

At 2 a.m. Thursday morning, CVGSAR was again activated  for a search for a missing Courtenay father and his daughters, aged five and 10.

The family had gone by four-wheel drive to explore a potential camping site at Blue Grouse Lake on the evening of July 6 and had become lost while returning home. A text message received at 9:30 p.m. by the man’s wife stated they were lost and had run into a series of dead end roads but was likely only a half hour from home. When no further communications were received, they were reported missing to the RCMP.

A full-scale search was initiated at 2 am involving SAR teams from the Comox Valley and Campbell River. Attempts to get an accurate GPS fix on the phone proved unreliable.

Teams in vehicles combed the expected routes of travel from Blue Grouse Lake toward Campbell River and Courtenay through the early hours of Thursday morning without success.

It was hoped that the trio would appear at first light. When this did not occur, RCMP air services as well as the Provincial Emergency Program Air Services were also activated.

Just before 8:30 a.m., one last text was received, stating “truck rolled over, slept the night on the mt., all ok.”

As no location was indicated, the search continued with a greater focus on higher-elevation areas.

Just before 10 a.m., the father and two children were located, uninjured and were reunited with their mother. To date, the truck has still not been located.

— Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue