Coquitlam SAR was activated for two separate incidents this weekend, both near the Pitt River.
The first occurred on Saturday evening at 19:30 when the team was tasked out for two lost canoeists who called for help, reporting they were somewhere on Pitt Lake.
Several members responded by boat, putting in at DeBoville Slough. SAR Managers used the YourLo.ca/tion service to “ping” the subject’s cell phone. The service, developed by Coquitlam SAR members, activates the phone’s GPS unit to locate the missing person. In this case, the technology worked, and placed the subjects within 5 metres of a location near the confluence of Widgeon Slough, just west of Siwash Island. A fly-over by the RCMP helicopter confirmed their location a few minutes later.
Our marine rescue team located the subjects stranded on a sand bar, wet, cold and suffering from hypothermia. One subject was non verbal, and had fallen into the water at some point in the evening. The team transported the subjects to Grant Narrows where members from Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue, Pitt Meadows Fire & Rescue and BC Ambulance advanced care paramedics were standing by. Both subjects were lightly dressed, and hypothermic, with one being quite a bit worse that the other, but responded to treatment quickly. One of the members on scene reported that they probably wouldn’t have made it through the night if they had not been rescued. The task stood down at 23:00.
Our second task of the weekend was for two hikers in Minnekhada Regional Park where two hikers in their 50’s had become lost due to darkness. They were dressed appropriately and uninjured. 14 members of the team responded, located the hikers very quickly, and walked them to the parking lot.
Advice to Backcountry Users
Both of these incidents were related to darkness, and the problem of trying to navigate once the sun goes down. In the first case, the canoeists were also caught by the complication of a falling tide that hung them up on the sand bar, and further detrimental effects of being lightly dressed for the marine environment. A simple error was compounded by other factors to turn their trip into a life threatening situation.
Any backcountry enthusiasts should always carry the 10 essentials which can make some minor changes in conditions easier to whether – this list of vital equipment includes a flashlight and navigation tools.
Both parties called for help early in the evening when they knew they were lost, and managed to provide accurate information via cell phone to rescuers which was extremely helpful.
The YourLo.ca/tion service developed by members of Coquitlam SAR is available for the use of Search and Rescue teams. The service attempts to activate the GPS in smart phones. It can make rescuing someone easier by locating them, or confirming their location. It does not always work; this weekend it assisted us to locate the two canoeists very rapidly, but could not locate the missing hikers. We consider it a valuable part of our search and rescue tool kit.