A lucky man has Arrowsmith Search and Rescue crews to thank after a harrowing rescue operation on Saturday afternoon in Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park.
Arrowsmith SAR was called to the park on Dec. 12 at approximately 3 p.m., to rescue the man, stranded in the middle of the frigid river. The man was trapped on a log, between two sets of waterfalls.
Nick Rivers, search and rescue manager with Arrowsmith SAR, went into the water himself for the rescue operation, which took between 25 and 30 minutes to complete. A social media video of the daring rescue, posted by Quinn Teechma, captured the incident on video.
“We got there and took an assessment,” said Rivers. “My safety, of course, was compromised being down in that environment, but through training and some other contingencies, we were able to mitigate the risks as much as possible, but you never can get rid of it completely.”
Before being lowered into the water, Rivers said a rope system had been set up to ensure that he couldn’t go over the next set of waterfalls if he were to lose his footing. After being lowered down, Rivers was eventually able to get below the man by swimming against the current and kicking off the rocks. Almost at the same time, Rivers said, the man was no longer able to hold on and lost his footing, falling into the water and heading towards the lower falls.
Rivers was able to quickly jump off the log and successfully catch the man, who was then only five feet away from the lower waterfalls. With the rope tied around Rivers, he held onto the man as his team from above pulled them both to safety and out of the water.
“There were a few times that I ended up under the water for a bit longer than I wanted to,” said Rivers. “At one point he was actually holding me underwater, not purposefully of course. It was just the position of him. And I couldn’t let go, otherwise he was going to go over the next waterfall.”
Without the use of his hands, Rivers said, he had to figure out how to get his head above water to breathe, all without letting go of the man, a task he considered “pretty tough.”
“I have been involved in some pretty intense rescues in the past, but swift water is undoubtedly the most dangerous part that we do. Water flowing at that rate, I can’t say that I’ve been involved in anything that intense before,” said Rivers.
After being safely pulled up to land, the man was attended to by BC Ambulance personnel and taken to hospital. Rivers said he did not know of any physical injuries to the man, other than hypothermia.
“When you’re lowered down into a canyon like that, and the water is thundering through it, no one can hear you call. No one can hear you whistle. No one can hear you radio. You’re alone down there.”
According to Rivers, Arrowsmith SAR has “no idea” how the man wound up in the pool, as there are no trails or anything that can “get you in there.”
Via Twitter, Arrowsmith SAR said “Dashwood FD, Coombs/Hilliers FD, BCAS and RCMP were also involved in the rescue. Effective multiple agency co-ordinated response is an important part of search and rescue in British Columbia.”