Ground SAR involved in three operations, and extensive training events this past weekend.
Members of Comox Valley Ground SAR were running flat-out, responding to two local operations, two significant training events in the mountains and leading the successful search effort for two missing Ontario hikers in Cathedral Lakes Provincial Park near Keremos, BC.
The CVGSAR personnel were committed to a regional rope rescue training event taking place in Sutton Pass, west of Port Alberni this past weekend while other members were honing their mountain travel and navigation skills in the Cruikshank canyon on Saturday.
In the midst of this training two emergency calls were received. The first to assist BC Ambulance Service in the evacuation of a mountain biker found unresponsive on a trail in the Cumberland area. CVGSAR, Cumberland Fire Dept. and BCAS worked together to evacuate the seriously injured biker who was then transferred via Air Ambulance to Victoria.
The second call was to locate an overdue hiker who had failed to return after a hike on the Comox Glacier. The hiker was delayed first by a knee injury then by realizing that he had left his cell phone on the mt. and then by darkness. Further compounding the fellow’s predicament was the fact that due to the late hour he was locked behind the forestry gates on the Comox Lk. Logging Rd. A CVGSAR team located the man in the early morning and reunited him with his worried family.
To cap off the weekend, CVGSAR command staff were flown into Keremos at the request of Emergency Management BC to provide support to teams in the Central region of the Province who were involved in a large scale search for two missing Ontario residents. Lynn Carmody and Richard Moynan, who had failed to return to Cathedral Park Lodge following a day hike the previous Monday.
CVGSAR personnel as well as an additional SAR Manager from Prince George took command of the search throughout the weekend expanding it to well over 200 square km and involving significant resources from the RCMP, BC Parks, 19 SAR teams from across the province, five helicopters and three fixed wing aircraft from the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA).
The operation took place in temperatures that reached 44 Celsius and elevations of 8,000 ft., conditions that challenged searchers, K-9 resources and helicopters alike.
“CVGSAR staff were deeply concerned about searcher safety in these conditions,” stated SAR Commander, Paul Berry. “As such, we borrowed a long established ‘rehab’ process from the fire service to ensure searcher wellness.”
A rehab process establishes the base line vitals for every searcher prior to their boarding of helicopters for the area of operations. All teams were restricted to four hours of field operations before being returned to the base camp for reassessment, rehydration and rest prior to redeployment.
CVGSAR worked closely with the family of the missing hikers who had flown in from both Ontario and Quebec, keeping them apprised of search efforts in each operational period.
Late Sunday afternoon after seven days of searching with no substantive clues as to the whereabouts of Carmody and Moynan, Berry supported by RCMP and BC Parks staff led the family through the difficult conversation regarding suspension of the search. As search teams completed the final assignments of the day, the family was flown into the park by helicopter the to view the majesty of the geography and to say their final good-bye to their parents.
As the noise of the helicopters subsided, and quiet settled over the gathered family, a call that no one was expecting crackled over the radios reporting the last team inserted that day had located the missing pair alive and in good condition despite their ordeal. Emotions went from despair to elation!
While the search had an 11th hour happy ending, this couple had risked hiking in the backcountry of B.C. completely unprepared. They were untrained to navigate in an alpine environment, carried only the paper bag lunch that had been provided to them by the lodge staff, were unfamiliar with the terrain and had told no one of their travel plans.
CVGSAR encourages everyone looking to experience the natural beauty of our parks and wilderness to “Get Informed” before heading out. Remember the three T’s Trip planning, Training and always carry the “Ten Essentials”. For more information visit www.adventuresmart.ca