At 6:30 pm on Sunday, April 7, 2012 Coquitlam Search and Rescue (Coq SAR) received a call from the Coquitlam RCMP that there were three lost hikers on Eagle Mountain in the Buntzen Lake area. The team was quickly activated due to fading light and Talon Helicopters was dispatched to get team members to the top of the mountain. Unfortunately, the hikers could not be located as the team was flown in ~ so with very little light left a team of two Coq SAR members was dropped off at the top of the mountain.
At the same time four members were dispatched up an old logging road on Eagle Mountain with the Team’s Argo, an eight wheel drive ATV. Several other members were also dispatched from the Buntzen Lake parking lot to hike up to the top of Eagle Mountain. The snow elevation is at approximately 500 meters with well over 2 meters of snow at the top.
The first team in, traveling on snow shoes, quickly discovered tracks in the snow from the subjects and began to follow them. Shortly after that the Argo team also found tracks in the snow, however it was unknown whose tracks those might be. While entering the park to join the search, Search Manager Ian MacDonald spotted lights in one of the middle parking lots. He soon discovered there were two other hikers that were also lost and who had just found their way back to the parking lot. No one knew they were out there and they were not reported missing.
As mid-night approached two other Coq SAR members were about to be deployed to the last trail when the three subjects appeared in the parking lot. They had apparently not heeded the advice of the RCMP to remain where they were and decided to follow their own tracks in the snow back down the mountain. Had they stayed where they were they would have likely have been spotted from the air with the helicopter and the whole search would have been over within an hour. Coq SAR now had 15 members on the mountain and it took until 5 am to get them out of the field. The team also spent the next day recovering their Argo, which had broken down at the top of the mountain.
Coq SAR would like to remind hikers that there is a lot of snow on the mountains this year and that it will likely last well into June or July. It is during this time of year when lost hikers are most likely to become hypothermic, simply because they are not prepared for the colder climates at the top of the mountain. Please ensure you have the 10 essentials with you like a map and compass, which the subjects of this search did not have.
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