A rescue in the woods

Christine Wood/Staff Writer / Staff writer
January 25, 2013 01:00 AM

Search and rescue volunteers Don Neville (left) and Brent Berry (right) help fellow volunteer Steph Reid (who was posing as a lost motorist) into a warm vehicle during a training exercise Jan. 22. See more photos in our on-line galleries at www.coastreporter.net.

When Mike decided to take Sally up the mountain in search of Montana Ridge Tuesday night, along with two six-packs of beer, he never thought he'd get hurt or lost or need the help of search and rescue, but luckily the volunteer group was there to respond.

It was a practice event organized by Sunshine Coast Search and Rescue (SCSAR) Jan. 22 with Robert Allen playing the role of the drunken Mike and Steph Reid as the cold, wet passenger Sally.

Coast Reporter was invited to take part in the training night to see first hand what local volunteers do to find those lost in the bush and bring them back safely.

There are about 45 volunteers who make up SCSAR, and Jan. 22 saw 15 come out for the bi-weekly training. Every other Tuesday members take turns setting up scenarios to test the team's search and rescue skills.

The mock call came in from Sunshine Coast RCMP at around 7 p.m., saying Mike and Sally were planning to go night skiing at Montana Ridge, but got lost and stuck along the way. They called 9-1-1 with their cell phone, but only knew they were somewhere past the airport and couldn't give any directions.

Members met for a briefing with leader Alec Tebbutt who handed out copies of the police report and a map of the area.

He then started organizing teams of two to search the myriad logging roads up past the airport. Teams left as soon as they got their directions and kept in touch via radios.

Our team was tasked to go to the top of the mountain along a specific road, and after checking three intersections, searchers finally found fresh tire tracks.

Turning up a steep hill they spotted beer cans and then some crushed ice, making searchers suspect they were going in the right direction.

Seeing a slight reflection ahead, volunteers stopped and yelled for Mike and Sally. Mike responded, drunk and hunched over in the woods with a twisted ankle. First aid was quickly administered, and Mike was warmed with blankets and heat packs while the rest of the searchers were called in to assist.

Mike directed searchers to Sally who was in a vehicle on the side of the road and needed to be warmed up as well. She had fallen in an icy puddle nearby, but was otherwise well.

The whole rescue took about an hour and was expertly executed. Teams were calm and organized and knew what to do, keeping the victims relaxed and never leaving them without care.

During the debriefing after the event, searchers came up with a few things they could do better next time and shared their experiences from the evening.

It was obvious the tight-knit group is serious about search and rescue.

Members go through extensive training in tracking, navigation and first aid before getting their jacket and being welcomed into the fold. Then new recruits go through a six-month probation to make sure they're a good fit.

All of the members of the local group, which has been in existence in some form on the Coast since 1976, are avid outdoors-people who want to give back.

Last year the local search and rescue group was called out 20 times, but they suspect more people were lost in the bush at some point, unwilling to call in.

"We really want to get the message out that anyone lost or in trouble should call 9-1-1 sooner rather than later and the RCMP will decide when to call us out," Allen said. "We had a couple of folks who were reluctant to call for help a few weeks ago because they didn't want to see themselves on television or be on the front page of the newspaper. But we try to keep everyone anonymous in our reporting."

To find out more about SCSAR as well as survival tips, go to www.sunshinecoastsar.ca.


© Coast Reporter

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