Cooperative weather, a well-trained long-line rescue team and a quick-thinking patient all combined to make a great ending after a nasty fall.
An 18-year-old man fell about 40 feet down a ravine, while out hiking with his father and another family at the Community Forest in the eastern hillsides outside of Chilliwack Tuesday afternoon.
As he tried to climb his way back up the steep hillside, he ended up in a small platform area of some creek drainage. He’d suffered multiple injuries to his arm, shoulder and ribs, and was stranded. Nearing 4 p.m., it was getting cold and drizzling, with the moisture from the fast-running waterway making matters worse.
Thankfully, the next series of events went rather well, considering the harrowing circumstances. While the boy’s father sent down some webbing style rope for his son to create a sling, the rest of the hiking party helped flag down Chilliwack firefighters, police and ambulance. Chilliwack Search and Rescue manager Doug Fraser explains how everything came together to get the young man to safety.
“We are really fortunate, again, that the weather cooperated enough with the cover that we could get him out,” he says.
Once the rescuers arrived on scene, they hiked in with climbing gear to get to the teen.
“They used a hand line for the first part (of the descent), and for the last 20 or 40 feet it was a vertical repel that they had to go down, into the drainage area,” Fraser says.
There was little room to stand once they got there, and one of the rescuers had to stand with the water rushing against his back.
“It was chilly even if you weren’t standing in the water down in the gully, with the mist and spray from the water,” Fraser said. Meanwhile, a team in a helicopter was flying above to assess how they would lift the teen and his two rescuers from the steep, treed area.
“It was a challenging flight,” Fraser says. “On one hand we had cloud level that was quite low, and there is timber in this area, really tall trees. Initially when the helicopter came in to see the situation it was touch and go that we would be able to do a long line rescue.”
But the ceiling improved, and the rescue was a go.
“We had to use our maximum line length, for the height of the trees and depth of the drainage,” he says. “Having 250 feet of line hanging under the helicopter was even more challenging for the pilot, getting down into that small little area.”
The injured hiker and the cold rescuer were flown out together first, then the line came back in empty with just a harness attached, to pluck out the second rescuer.
“One of them had to stand with the water rushing over his back, and he was cooling down pretty quick so we were really glad to be able to fly him out,” Fraser says.
The hiker was sent onto the hospital to have his injuries tended to, and impressed paramedics with his own quick thinking and abilities creating his own, improvised sling.
“One of the two SAR members is a paramedic, and he told, ‘well I couldn’t do it much better.’”
The rescue wrapped up by about 7 p.m., Fraser says, and was fast on the heels of another mountainside rescue at Mt. Rexford on Saturday. In that nine-hour rescue, Chilliwack Search and Rescue helped a climber who fell onto a ledge and broke his leg.