Salt Spring Island Search and Rescue (SSISAR) members were out in force last week, conducting two rescues together with ambulance, fire and coast guard crews.
As more people venture out into nature carrying their cell phones, SSISAR manager Conrad Bowden explained that SAR groups across the province are seeing fewer searches for missing people and more rescues. One such example was the rescue of a hiker with a significant lower leg injury out of Ruckle The injured man and his group were well-prepared and were able to keep him dry and warm, Bowden said. Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue and BC Emergency Health Services ambulance personnel were unable to walk the man out, so the SAR team was called in around 11:30 a.m.
Coincidentally, SSISAR’s specialized rope rescue team was doing rope training when the call came. These skills came to good use as the man was wheeled, and in steeper sections belayed, down the trail in a basket stretcher with a wheel attached.
It took a few hours for the 10 SAR members to get the man to the nearest road, about a mile away, in rainy and slippery conditions.
“You’re on quite a rough trail . . . lots of bumps and you’re trying to stabilize the person,” Bowden explained. “You have to keep focused on their medical needs . . . at the same time you’re trying to move efficiently.”
Fire and ambulance crews assisted.
“We work with other agencies a lot and we’re fortunate that we have good relationships with them on the island,” he said. “We do tend to work well together.”
The hiker was transferred to a waiting ambulance and onto a hospital.
At 12:45 a.m. on May 7, SAR crews were called out again to attend to an injured person on a small island off Galiano Island. The exact location of the rescue isn’t being disclosed due to privacy.
SAR volunteers headed to the island with the Canadian Coast Guard crew based out of Ganges Harbour, aboard the CCGS Cape Naden.
“They took three SAR members . . . two of the SAR members, it turns out, it was their birthday. So that’s how they spent their first few hours on their birthday,” Bowden said.
The person’s injury was initially thought to be grave enough to require transport to Swartz Bay. Yet after SAR and Coast Guard members assessed the person, it was determined they could stay on the island. Crews were back home by 5:30 a.m.
The May 7 call-out was the seventh this year, which is fairly busy for the professional volunteer organization. Bowden, who is also president of the SSISAR Society, emphasized that their service extends across the Southern Gulf Islands and is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation.
Bowden also stressed that the service SSISAR’s volunteers provide does not cost anything for people that need them. Fear of cost should not keep people from calling in. The sooner people can make the call the better.
“We often get donations after people are rescued by us, but certainly there’s no cost. So people shouldn’t delay,” Bowden said. “We’ll even come on our birthdays.”