It was one emergency after the other for Chilliwack Search and Rescue on Saturday — their busiest day in the team’s history.
“There were four separate incidents,” said Chilliwack SAR search manager Doug Fraser. “Those were the only calls we had all weekend, but it was non-stop.”
Two incidents saw recreational vehicles driven over embankments on Aug. 3, as well as swimmers who got stranded and a lost hiker.
Chilliwack SAR is the second busiest SAR team in the province, but Search Manager Dan McAuliffe, who has dedicated more than 30 years volunteering with SAR said: “Four calls in one day is unprecedented.”
The first call was mid-afternoon Saturday on the long weekend, when an ATV rider fell 300 feet down an embankment on Liumchen Bench Road near Cultus Lake.
A Bell 407 helicopter from Valley Helicopters was on-scene to allow SAR crews to put together a HETS long-line rescue, and the rider was flown directly to Royal Columbian Hospital by air ambulance.
While they were still on the first call, Chilliwack SAR was called to assist Hope SAR for another chopper based rescue at the Nickelmine Road recreation area north of Hope.
This time it was a dirt bike driven over a steep embankment and had fallen more than 200 feet.
HETS rescue technician Josef Seywerd was shocked by the rider’s relatively unscathed condition as he was being brought back up from the scene.
“Aside from a few scrapes he appeared to be uninjured,” said Seywerd.
While out on the second rescue, Hope SAR contacted Chilliwack SAR by radio to alert them of another emergency.
This time it was on the Coquihalla River at the popular Othello Tunnels area. Two young adults had been swimming in the river when they were overwhelmed by the current and swept downstream through the canyon to a section of the river between the first and second tunnel.
“All the rivers around here are at low water right now, but this particular spot above the Othello tunnels on the Coquihalla, as soon as you get past that last pool, you’re looking at water that’s extremely treacherous.”
Even expert kayakers avoid it because it’s full of drops, holes and debris.
“It’s not a place you want to be,” said Fraser.
The two swimmers made it to shore, but were stranded on the far side of the river.
Again SAR teams used long-line helicopter techniques, to assist the injured female using an aerial rescue platform (ARP).
“The uninjured male was also evacuated by long-line,” he said.
That training not only allows SAR to quickly access people in trouble, but it also saves them time and keeps the rescuers safe in the process.
The fourth and final call for help came just minutes after rescuing the two swimmers.
Hope SAR and Chilliwack SAR were called to search for a missing 16-year-old boy who was hiking a few kilometres south of Silver Lake on Skagit Valley Road.
“The terrain was steep and rugged and it initially appeared as if the search might be a long one.”
Rescuers met up with him on the trail, unharmed, just after 10 p.m.
*this version has been modified from the original to correct some details.