Busy start to fall for searchers

After a quiet summer, Nanaimo Search and Rescue volunteers responded to three callouts last week.

After a quiet summer, Nanaimo Search and Rescue volunteers responded to three callouts last week.

The week started with a mutual aid call from the Ladysmith search and rescue group looking for a man and his four-year-old daughter on Sept. 16, said Kevin McNeill, NSAR past president and spokesman.

The two were located before Nanaimo volunteers left home base.

Next came a call from Nanaimo RCMP on Sept. 18 about a 31-year-old autistic man who had gotten lost while biking in the Westwood Lake area with his mother.

“She turned right, he turned left and when she looked around, he was gone,” said McNeill.

Before volunteers could start combing the area, another bicyclist found the man and alerted police, who were stationed in the parking lot at Westwood.

Then on Wednesday morning, searchers went out to Cedar to look for the owner of a car parked along a lane way leading to a farmer’s field.

McNeill said volunteers started searching around 9 a.m. and received word around 11 a.m. that the man had taken a ferry to the mainland.

His next-of-kin told searchers that the man often left his car somewhere in Cedar to avoid parking at the terminal, he added.

Last week was the busiest the group has been in a while – McNeill can only recall volunteers getting called out once all summer.

“Historically, the summer months are quiet,” he said. “But then once September hits, it seems to pick up again. We didn’t have anything on the [Nanaimo River] this year and usually there’s at least one. Of course, it was cold right up until the end of July.”

In other news, after about a year of fundraising, the group has replaced its two road rescue trucks.

McNeil said volunteers originally hoped to replace the command truck and had about $110,000 toward the $170,000 needed, but decided to focus on the road rescue trucks instead after the federal government scrapped the Joint Emergency Preparedness Program, through which the society hoped to secure a grant.

“We can run local searches out of the hall and it would have been another two or three years before we could replace the command vehicle,” said McNeill.

The group bought two pickup trucks, one used and one new, for about $90,000, which will be used to carry rescue gear and volunteers on searches and will help people focus on the rescue at hand.

“There was always the chance the old ones would break down on us,” said McNeill.

For more information, please go to www.nanaimosar.bc.ca.

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