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Vancouver Island Search and Rescue teams combine to rescue ‘badly injured climber’

Three island Search and Rescue teams came together to help rescue an injured mountain climber.

In the fading hours of Saturday evening, members of the Comox Valley, Campbell River and Alberni Valley teams worked in tight coordination to rescue a badly injured climber from just below the summit of Mt. Arrowsmith.

Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue (CVGSAR) President Paul Berry said the climber sustained significant injuries after a fall on the summit earlier in the afternoon.

“The incident initially took place just after 1:00pm yesterday afternoon. A party of three had been climbing Mount Arrowsmith. Really not good conditions at all, heavy snow high winds and one of the party sustained a fall of above 20 meters from rock onto a snowfield. (He had) some significant head injuries as well as other injuries.”

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The Alberni Valley Rescue Squad immediately began to up-climb the “Judge’s Route” to locate and assess the injured man and another team was dropped via helicopter onto the summit.

Berry says they determined however that the Regional Helicopter Hoist Team was required to help the injured man and get him transferred to a higher level of medical care.

“We were called just after 6:00pm and we travelled to Parksville and met with the helicopter. From the time we launched to the time we had the injured fellow in the hands of BC Ambulance was less than 40 minutes.”

“Helicopter Hoist resue is a higher risk operation and it’s really our last resort before having to call 442 or something like that, but in these circumstances, the weather did allow the helicopter to get in and dropoff a team of three from CVGSAR who prepared the subject for hoisting.”

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The Port Alberni team already had the climber packaged, and with that, the man was quickly raised to the helicopter and flown to Parksville where he was transferred to an Advanced Life Support helicopter to Vancouver.

Berry says a similar incident happened on the mountain six years ago and in that case, no Helicopter Hoist Team was available to help.

“That rescue involved every search and rescue team on Vancouver Island and hundreds of rescuers over a 16 hour period to pack the person off the mountain because the weather would not allow even 442 to get in.”

He says in this case, “even though it was seven hours from the time he initially fell until he was in the hands of a higher level of medical care, the helicopter at that point was the best resource to get him off the mountain.”

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