Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)

Search and rescue personnel were able to help get an injured hiker down from the top of Mt. Benson before a snow storm arrived last night.

Nanaimo Search and Rescue crews, with help from Arrowsmith Search and Rescue and CFB Comox’s 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron, were able to rescue a man who had sustained a serious upper-body injury and bring him far enough down the mountain to reach a waiting ambulance Saturday, Jan. 23.

Eugene Touchette, search manager with Nanaimo SAR, said crews had just helped another hiker farther down the mountain when the call came in for the injured hiker at the top.

Usually, he said, rescuers can get vehicles all the way to the summit via the service road, but with recent weather – snow melting and then freezing – “the entire top of the mountain has become glare ice.”

Crews had GPS co-ordinates and knew where to go, but it was slow progress. Once they reached the patient, as assessment was made that due to his condition, combined with the grades on that part of the mountain and the approaching weather system, that a helicopter extraction was in order.

“With his injuries it was essential that we got him out before the storm came in. It wasn’t a shelter-in-place situation. We were concerned with the weather system and how we would even be able to extract him this morning with the conditions changing as well as the potential for going into shock,” Touchette said.

Once air support arrived, however, cloud cover made such an operation impossible for the Cormorant helicopter. Instead, the fixed-wing Buffalo aircraft circled, lighting the night sky with flares to assist rescuers on the mountainside below.

Touchette said SAR’s rope team used fixed ropes to get down steep pitches before all involved were able to hike to a UTV, which brought them to a truck, and then to an ambulance at about 11:30 p.m., some six and a half hours after the initial call came in. For search and rescuers, their day didn’t end until 2 a.m. – COVID-19 protocols demanded full sanitization of equipment so as to be prepared for the next call.

Touchette said he hopes a takeaway from Saturday’s incidents will be the importance of trip planning and preparation – he suggests http://adventuresmart.ca as a resource. He also reminds people to look at weather forecasts.

“The top of the mountain is the first place that the weather goes bad,” he said. “It might be nice in town, but if you look at the mountain, the weather could change very quickly.”

READ ALSO: Nanaimo Search and Rescue launches ‘Rescue Our Rescuer’ for deputy chief who has cancer

READ ALSO: Nanaimo Search and Rescue wants to get started with rebuilding base



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

rescueSearch and Rescue

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Duncan’s City Hall will get a seismic assessment this year. (File photo)
Duncan City Hall to get seismic assessment

City hopes grants will help pay for seismic upgrades

Vandals damaged a picnic table at Spectacle Lake Park with a chainsaw earlier this month. (Linda Mills photo)
Editorial: Vandals make victims of us all

It is infuriating when people target public property for vandalism.

Vees' Jack Barnes picked up his second goal of the season in the team's 5-0 win over Merritt on Saturday. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Cowichan Capitals in deadline dilemma with 20-year-old players

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

The latest homeless count in the Valley found 129 in a 24-hour period. (File photo)
Latest homeless count reveals 129 in the Cowichan Valley

But local officials believe number is higher

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Island-raised musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing escalates to stabbing in Nanaimo

Victim, struck with coffee cup and then stabbed, suffers minor injuries; suspect arrested

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

The Port of Nanaimo has signed a 50-year-agreement with DP World around short-sea shipping operations at Duke Point Terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Lease ‘important first step’ in $105-million Nanaimo port expansion project

Port of Nanaimo and DP World sign 50-year shipping operations agreement for Duke Point

A BC Ferries worker out of Swartz Bay has tested positive for COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Swartz Bay ferry worker confirmed to have COVID-19

Employees in direct contact with worker now isolating

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

Most Read