Busy weekend on river for local SAR crew

Local search and rescue crews responded to three separate incidents ranging from Trail to Nelson.

Hot sun and high water set the stage for local search and rescue over the weekend when crews were called to three separate incidences from Nelson to Trail.

Mike Hudson, manager for South Columbia Search and Rescue (SC SAR) was also covering the position in Nelson for three days when the first call out came Friday afternoon.

A despondent woman was missing and reported to be in the 6 mile and Kootenay Lake area, said Hudson.

SAR members were not dispatched to ground search as the woman was said to be dangerous and in possession of a weapon, explained Hudson.

Instead, a boat crew was dispatched from Nelson to assist three officers and police dog with locating the female and her companion.

Within a few hours the woman was located and in the care of BC ambulance and RCMP members.

The second incident happened in Trail later that day, when SC SAR just happened to be driving its rescue truck through the city with boat in tow.

Police flagged down Hudson by the Old Trail Bridge, after receiving a report that a young male had jumped off the bridge.

While calling in swift water crews, Hudson said the subject appeared from under the structure and climbed onto the bridge rail, attempting to jump.

Fortunately, the young man’s sister was able to help him to safety as SC SAR maintained the scene along with the police.

“We were just getting the call out to members when he was getting ready to jump so it shifted gears,” Hudson said. “It all happened really quick.”

Multiple officers arrived on location to aid in the subject’s safe removal from the bridge deck and he was attended to by BC ambulance crews and RCMP, Hudson added.

The third call out came in Sunday night at 6 p.m. following reports of a male in distress on the Columbia River near Castlegar.

Hudson said South Columbia responded with a swift water crew and rescue boat. Shortly after, the team stood down after police confirmed people were in the water but no one was in distress.

“The big thing this time of year, especially around the water, is when the water gets high, things tend to change,” explained Hudson. “Of course, safety means life jackets, not drinking while on the river and using proper techniques and procedures. But there’s areas of the river that have a lot of logs and debris hung up that rising water can quickly dislodge and move. What you normally might think is safe passage can change with the height difference in the river.”

Little snow had local SAR teams as well as those across B.C. called out fewer times over the winter months.

With warm temperatures and dry terrain the provincial trend, SAR calls for water rescue and hikers in trouble are on the incline earlier than usual.

“Calls across the province has pushed up over the last couple of weeks,” said Hudson. “People are definitely starting to get out there and get themselves in positions where they need help.”

Trip pre-planning such as letting people know the exact hiking location, expected return time and packing adequate sustenance, are key in maintaining safety.

“Statistically this part of B.C. as well as most of the province has more calls in one year than the rest of Canada,” said Hudson, noting a steady increase in South Columbia calls since 2012.

“When I first joined, we had maybe eight or 10 calls per year. Last year we had 22, and every group is reporting the same.”

South Columbia encompasses the area of Trail, Montrose, Fruitvale and Salmo. Through specialized training in swift water rescue, rope rescue, wilderness first aid, tracking, avalanche response and SAR management, through mutual aid crews participate with other West Kootenay SAR groups including Nelson, Rossland, Castlegar and Nakusp.

For more information and anyone interested in joining SC SAR is encouraged to call 250.231.9944 or visit scsar.ca.