August 22, 2011 at 10:30 AM, Coquitlam SAR received a call from the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Comox, to let them know that a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) had been activated by a group of 3 hikers on the fools gold trail just above Pitt Lake. With no information beyond the route and the distress beacon, Coquitlam SAR called upon 442 Squadron and their Cormorant helicopter to come help access the distress call. Weather unfortunately kept them from being able to access the site. Some of their members were deposited up along the lake, where summer residents took them in to spend the night and start up the steep and treacherous drainage in the morning.
At this point, Coquitlam SAR activated North Shore Rescue’s Helicopter Flight Rescue Team (HFRS Team) to come in the morning and assist in the search. As such, myself and the HFRS coordinator were picked up by Talon Helicopters chief pilot, Kelsey Wheeler, at 06:30 from our Bone Creek heli base. We were using Talon’s AS355 Twin Star helicopter. Arriving at Grant Narrows for 07:00 we repacked the helicopter with a basic kit, and picked up HFRS trained Coquitlam member Nick Zupan. We then spent the better part of the day waiting for weather to clear and searching the drainage’s around Debeck Creek where the distress signal was coming from.
Unfortunetly, the PLB did not provide the most accurate initial coordinates and by luck, on our way out for fuel, we spotted a pencil flare, fired by the subjects. After hovering on scene for a few minutes to instruct them to stay put. We quickly went to get fuel. Upon returning, we rigged the helicopter for HFRS and both myself and Nick were inserted on a 200 foot long-line to perform the rescue. After all 3 subjects had been pulled out safe and sound, we returned and extracted the 3 Coquitlam members that were still in the field.
Although tired and wet, the 3 stranded hikers were in good shape. I have to commend them for doing everything right. They had a very detailed trip plan, they had purchased a PLB, and they were well equipped for the route. Ultimately by having the ten essentials and more, they ensured their speedy rescue. Having flares can be very advantageous when things go wrong.