Major Search on the Megin River
A woman was found in good condition in the Megin River valley last Sunday after an intensive search. When she was reported overdue on Friday, the Ahousaht Emergency First Responders Team initiated an intensive search which included emergency response personnel from Ahousaht and other first nations, friends and family members.
When the woman was not found in the difficult terrain the Provincial Emergency Program in Victoria activated local volunteer Search and Rescue (SAR) groups from Tofino/Ucluelet, Port Alberni, Mt. Arrowsmith and Comox, who worked with the RCMP and Coastguard to assist in the search. Commercial helicopters from Coulson Logging and Vancouver Island Helicopters in Campbell River and float planes from Atleo Air Services and Tofino Airlines participated. Two dog teams were also used.
This was the third call out in three weeks for the growing Westcoast Inland SAR team which is based in Ucluelet and Tofino. The Westcoast SAR team will be looking for new members this fall and is planning to run the government certification course required for SAR volunteers over the winter.
New Years' Search
An elderly subject was last seen walking down the main road shortly before dark at around 17:30. He was reported to be warmly dressed but subject to dementia – perhaps Alzheimer’s. Local residents had been searching around the point last seen for approximately 2 hours before calling the RCMP for help.
Six WCISAR members initially responded to the callout and set up a search base at the local fire hall. SAR members headed up four search teams of convergent volunteers. One team focused directly on the area around the point last seen, the second from the PLS back towards town, the third and fourth teams searched nearby roads away from the PLS. Due to the proximity of the shoreline and the possibility that the subject had wandered down along the shoreline and become cut off by the rising tide the Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria was contacted to initiate a shoreline search inside Ucluelet harbour with the Coastguard Auxiliary team. The Port Alberni SAR team was put on notice that the might be needed and made preparations for an early start in the morning.
The subject was found close to the PLS at 1:18. It was apparent that he had been wandering in the bush but it was unclear exactly where. He was initially unwilling to be taken in by his relatives and the RCMP went to the scene to manage the situation.
Search for Mushroom Pickers on Kennedy Flats
The WISAR team was called to find two missing mushroom pickers on Kennedy Flats. The two men had gone out for a few hours of picking in the evening. They were experienced and well prepared but left cell phones and survival gear behind since they were going out for just a short time. Both men, separately, become disoriented and lost while only a short distance from their vehicle. They decided to try to find their own way out and after a cold, wet and uncomfortable night they struck off across country. One of the men made it to the Pacific Rim Highway and contacted Park Wardens the other was found wandering on a logging road.
Sutton Pass Search
WISAR was called by the Ucluelet RCMP at 23:29 to report two missing hikers in the Sutton Pass area. One subject was described as an experienced hiker who knew the area, his grandson who was accompanying him was inexperienced. They had left to climb part way up a “pointy peak near Sutton Pass” at 9am and had not returned as expected before dark. Further investigation made it highly likely that the peak was Pogo peak and a team was dispatched to look for the vehicle. At the same time RCMP was dispatched from Port Alberni (this area is actually in there jurisdiction) to look for the car.
The car was rapidly found near Sutton Pass. A team of 5 people from WISAR did some initial searching near the car and remained there through the night. At first light an additional 6 members were dispatched to start the search in earnest. RCMP requested both a dog handler and a helicopter. At 7:30 after some initial planning three teams were dispatched – two (including one experienced family member in each) followed different routes up the bushy ridge used to access the peak, the third team consisting of the dog handler and one WISAR team member went ahead to look for scent.
At 7:36 Port Alberni SAR arrived and three additional teams were dispatched – one to follow another route up the broad ridge, one to follow the south bank of the river to see if the subjects had descended to this travel boundary, and one team of trackers to follow one of the WISAR teams that had found tracks. Following extensive use of shouting and whistle blasts two of the teams got a response from the subjects who were confirmed to be found at 10:36. The RCMP helicopter arrived just as the subjects were found and was used to evacuate the subjects and two of the teams. The remaining teams hiked out through the thick brush.
Christmas Search for Missing Hiker
Thirteen members of the Westcoast Inland Search and Rescue (WISAR) team along with National Park wardens and Coastguard members missed much of their Christmas day celebrations when they were called out on a search for a missing hiker.
The subject was hiking the Radar Hill beaches trail when he became separated from the rest of his party around noon on Christmas Day while following his dog. After a search by family and friends the Park wardens carried out an initial search before calling out the WISAR team at 16:30. Active searching carried on until shortly before midnight when a brief break was called. Searching started again early on Boxing Day and the subject was found after spending a cold night on the rocky shores north of the Radar Hill beaches soon after first light. An RCMP helicopter was used to evacuate the subject to Tofino.
The WISAR team had recently received a grant from the National Search and Rescue Secretariat that was used to purchase of communications equipment that was put to good use on this search with a network of teams on high points in the search area using coordinated calling, whistle blasts and listening.