In what has been described as a “dramatic rescue”, members of Wells Gray Search and Rescue, Kamloops Search and Rescue, and others evacuated an injured snowmobiler from the mountains near Avola Sunday morning.
According to Ryan McLarty, search manager with Wells Gray SAR, the local team received a report at about 6 p.m. on Saturday that a snowmobiler had gone off about a five meter (15 foot) cliff and broken his leg. The incident occurred while sledding in the mountains near Avola between the Finn and Foam creek drainages.
There were four members in the party – two from St. Paul, Alberta and two from Cochrane, Alberta.
One of the party went out for help while the other two remained with the injured person (overnight, as it turned out).
Because of darkness and a policy that search and rescue members not go into potential avalanche terrain without it first being cleared by an avalanche technician, the decision was made to put off any rescue attempt until morning.
Kamloops SAR was advised at about 8 p.m. on Saturday, with a specific request for an avalanche technician.
A ground team on snowmobiles left for the scene at 5 a.m. Yellowhead Helicopters flew in a rescue team at first light.
Six members of Wells Gray SAR and eight from Kamloops SAR took part. The Kamloops contingent included a snowmobile team plus an avalanche technician.
Because of the terrain, the helicopter was unable to land where the injured person was. However, two snowmobilers from Blue River were able to make a track so that the two uninjured snowmobilers were able to reach where the helicopter had landed.
One of the Alberta snowmobilers was suffering from the cold after being out overnight and was evacuated by helicopter to Highway 5. The second remained at the scene and left with the SAR teams.
A helicopter winch crew from Vernon was called in. Most members of the crew are members of Vernon Search and Rescue but they operate as part of a separate society, BC Air Rescue.
The crew flew from Vernon and then used the winch on their helicopter to raise the victim into the helicopter. He then was flown to Kamloops Airport, where he was transferred by ambulance to Royal Inland Hospital.
Cpl. Mark Labossiere of Clearwater RCMP praised everyone involved for a successful rescue, including Wells Gray SAR, Kamloops SAR, the Vernon winch rescue team, Yellowhead Helicopters pilot Ken Lancour, and Daniel Hardis and Ian Kuypers of Blue River Sledz.
“This was amazing, awesome work by all parties involved,” Labossiere said. “The local and out-of-town search and rescue teams are such valuable resources. Too many times people go into the backwoods unprepared and the result is a group of volunteers give their time to rescue these individuals.”
Below: Photo shows cliff band at top that snowmobiler went over on Saturday, breaking his leg. Discolored area at lower left is site where he and two companions spent the night.