Intensive training, adrenaline rushes and constantly being in standby mode are all in a days work for the team from South Columbia Search and Rescue (SAR).
The physical readiness of SAR’s 30 volunteers, all whom hold regular jobs, was called to action this week for one of the most difficult searches in recent memory.
Ymir resident Edward Perello was reported missing from the Whitewater ski hill Tuesday after the 47-year old went skiing alone early Monday morning and didn’t return home.
He was located Thursday and extracted from his location then taken to a waiting ambulance.
Perello’s medical condition was listed as unknown at press time, but the search team indicated he appeared to be doing well, according to Nelson RCMP Sgt. Leanne Tuchscherer.
“If it were not for the information provided by an individual who spoke to Mr. Perello and provided us with a direction of travel, he may not have been located in time or at all,” said Tuchscherer “Once again another fantastic effort put forth by SAR and all individuals who contributed to his safe return.”
SAR groups from South Columbia, Rossland and Kaslo were dispatched to assist the Nelson team late Tuesday, and stayed on the mountain until midnight, explained Mike Hudson, South Columbia’s manager, safety officer and president.
His team of nine ground searchers, including snow-shoers and skiers were out the first night in the coordinated effort but only two volunteers, with specific training, were sent in the following morning due to the challenging landscape.
Advanced skiers from different teams searched through what Hudson describes as absolutely terrible conditions.
“They said it’s some of the most difficult terrain they’ve ever seen,” he noted. “There’s rocks, boulders, logs and large pools of water. I commend the people who went up there trudging through because it definitely was a tough go.”
SAR teams from Revelstoke and Golden joined the search Thursday, giving local members an opportunity to rehydrate and rest if the search had to continue or in case of another emergency situation.
“I went up there last night to speak to people in command and discussed what was happening for today (Thursday),” said Hudson. “We are pretty much always on call and if anything changes we have to be ready to go.”
Although ground crews weren’t called out, advanced members with training in rope rescue remained on alert if extraction from the mountain was warranted or if the operations manager needed a break.
“It’s tough when you do multi-day searches because you exhaust your local teams,” explained Hudson, a Teck worker by day. “But that is why we are constantly upgrading our training and keeping on top of the skills because we are on-call 365 days of the year.”
The South Columbia group generally receives about three primary calls a year that in the past, included searching for a missing hunter, swift water rescues, medical calls and avalanche extractions.
At the helm of any search and rescue is the operations manager, a position Hudson has held for two years. The volunteer job requires intensive training and certification through the Justice Institute in Vancouver.
“There is a lot of trust in a SAR manager for what’s going to happen on the scene,” explained Hudson. “In this case Nelson SAR was handling that but we already had a pretty good idea of the situation heading up there. There’s a lot of prep that goes into each call.”