South Columbia Search and Rescue post during the weekend rescue of two cross country skiers in the Bonanza area. (Photo South Columbia SAR)

South Columbia Search and Rescue post during the weekend rescue of two cross country skiers in the Bonanza area. (Photo South Columbia SAR)

Skiers rescued from Red Mountain and Paulson Pass

Four people rescued during busy weekend for region’s SAR crews

After a quiet end to 2017, South Columbia Search and Rescue was out in full force this weekend assisting with simultaneous calls of lost skiers – two in the Paulson Pass area and two on Red Mountain.

After spending a night in the elements, all four were located and pulled out safely by helicopter Sunday afternoon.

Calls from ECC (Emergency Coordination Centre) in Victoria began Saturday night, explained South Columbia President Mike Hudson.

“Every resource was used and multiple outside organizations played a huge part in our success to get these calls done,” Hudson said. “The coordination and highly skilled members, commitment and team work was the best we have ever seen.”

The first alert came in at 6 p.m. Saturday with a report of two cross country skiers overdue and lost in the Bonanza Pass area, also known as the Blueberry-Paulson Pass.

Hudson says the skiers activated their spot beacon for help.

With help from neighbouring SAR teams from Nelson through to Grand Forks, search efforts began Saturday night with 18 members, four sleds and one UTV (utility terrain vehicle).

Being up on the Paulson Summit with night closing in, and hindered by deep snow and a very high avalanche risk, rescuers were prevented from reaching the two subjects.

In the midst of the operation, Castlegar and Rossland SAR received another call out on Red Mountain for two missing snowboarders.

That night time search was also a hampered by darkness and search resources.

After standing down at 1:30 a.m., teams had a few hours rest at home before heading back to the Bonanza site at 6 a.m. to resume their efforts.

“Between ourselves and Castlegar we had to organize resources to work for both searches, snowmobiles, skiers, command trailers, and helicopters,” Hudson said. “After some continued searching on both searches our subjects were located.”

He added, “With the help of all our members and Dam Helicopters for the Red Mountain search, Wildcat Helicopters and Vernon SAR with their winch rescue team, we successfully pulled out all four subjects from both searches at almost the same time.”

Hudson says the collaborative effort and successful outcomes are why the volunteers train so hard year round.

“Well over 50 members, multiple snow machines and two helicopters, we pulled off two search and rescue calls simultaneously,” he explained.

“The integration of our teams near and far was amazing and incredibly professional. We couldn’t be prouder to do what we do with some of the best rescue personal in the south east region of B.C.”

All four people rescued are home and with their families, Hudson concluded.

“Thanks to everyone involved, RCMP, BCAS (ambulance), Dam Helicopters, Vernon winch team, ECC, IRCC in Texas (spot beacon emergency center) and all the volunteers from Castlegar, Nelson, Rossland, Grand Forks and Kaslo SAR teams.”

The busy weekend followed what Hudson says was a quiet end to an eventful year.

“Pretty much all the groups in our area went about three months without a call,” he told the Trail Times Jan. 18. “But 2017 was another busy year for us, we were one call short of our record year in 2016.”

The primary role of search and rescue is to find and assist people who become lost or injured, and to support local authorities during natural disasters or mass casualty incidents. The professional group of volunteers collaborate with the RCMP, BC Ambulance Service and BC Coroners Service to provide emergency services.

South Columbia’s service zone encompasses the municipalities of Trail, Montrose, Fruitvale and Salmo as well as the area west of the Columbia River to the Kootenay Pass and north from the U.S. border to the Village of Ymir.

The team regularly assists neighbouring SAR groups including Nelson, Rossland, Castlegar and Nakusp, through mutual aid requests. Members provide specialized support such as wilderness first aid, avalanche response, tracking, rope and swift water rescue when called upon both locally and across the province.

South Columbia SAR is always actively recruiting new volunteers.

“Are you looking for a rewarding experience, a chance to help people in need and save lives?” Hudson asks. “Come join our team at South Columbia Search and Rescue. You will gain training and courses and be apart of a community of over 2,500 volunteers across the province.”

Anyone interested in joining the team is encouraged to visit the group’s website, scsar.ca.