Chilliwack touched by loss of SAR hero

A Chilliwack SAR manager remembers the time he was rescued by North Shore Search and Rescue leader Tim Jones.

Chilliwack SAR member Doug Fraser remembers North Shore Search and Rescue icon Tim Jones (above) who died suddenly on Sunday. Jones is credited with assisting in the rescue of thousands of people – including Fraser.

A Chilliwack SAR manager is remembering the time he was rescued by none other than the North Shore Search and Rescue leader Tim Jones.

Condolences were pouring in this week from across B.C. for Jones, who collapsed suddenly and died Sunday night.

Chilliwack SAR search manager Doug Fraser said he clearly recalls the day he first met Jones, the man who was the face of B.C. Search and Rescue.

It was about a year after he’d joined Chilliwack Search and Rescue. Fraser and a fellow SAR member found themselves in serious trouble, while on a search of Mt. Slesse in the treacherous back country.

“My first meeting with Tim Jones was Tim rescuing me,” Fraser told The Progress this week.

It was Day 3 of a brutal search to find a missing hiker who had been searching for wreckage from the Trans-Canada airline crash of 1956. It was the summer of 1998, and Fraser and the other searcher had just vertically rappelled down a ravine in challenging terrain. Water was pouring down the gully.

Soon that led to the grisly discovery of the deceased hiker they’d been looking for.

But they were stuck at this point. They were short of rope, after sections got tangled. They could not make it down the ravine the rest of the way or back up to the top. The SAR members themselves were mentally and physically exhausted.

They had no choice but to hunker down near the body for a few hours and await rescue.

“We were a little traumatized,” Fraser recalled.” We had been hoping to find this fellow alive.” When it didn’t turn out that way, it led to a feeling of helplessness, coupled with utter exhaustion.

North Shore Rescue had been called in; it was the only SAR team with long-line rescue capability.

For Fraser, that day turn out to be his first meeting with Jones. He knew about him but he never met him until he came flying in to his rescue.

“He was the first to fly into that gully at the end of the long line,” he said.

He was so glad to see Jones.

“It sure was a relief,” he said. “A three-minute flight, and we were in a different world.”

The Chilliwack SAR member was reminiscing this week about that life-transforming incident.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Fraser said. “I was amazed by what this helicopter long-line system was capable of.”

The experience actually inspired Fraser to undergo the specialized training required for long-line helicopter rescue certification himself.

“The loss of Tim Jones this week is such a shock,” Fraser said. “The whole province is reeling from the news.”

Many remembering Jones are using the word “tenacious” to describe him.

“That’s a fitting word,” said Fraser. “His commitment to support and improvements for SAR were endless.”