Search and rescue piggybacks plucky injured senior out of Vancouver Island woods

Rescue crews don’t have same success with dog swept away by Comox Valley river

A bulldog named Rosie was swept downstream in Browns River on Nov. 8. Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue participated in the search but she was not found. (Facebook/Comox Valley Ground Search & Rescue)

A woman who decided to celebrate her 80th birthday with a wilderness hike found herself being piggy-backed out of the woods on Sunday.

Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue was called to Lake Helen McKenzie where the woman’s 80th birthday celebration went awry during the nine-kilometre hike in Strathcona Park near Mount Washington. She was hiking with her family when she slipped and fractured her ankle on the last steep pitch up to the lake.

“She’s a pretty youthful woman of her age,” said Paul Berry, CVGSAR President, adding that the boardwalks were slippery with frost.

An 80-year-old hiker was piggy-backed out to a helicopter after fracturing her ankle on a hike to Lake Helen McKenzie. (Facebook/Comox Valley Ground Search & Rescue)

The woman’s ankle had already been splinted by a passing search and rescue technician, and the CVSGAR team came to piggy-back her out to their helicopter.

“Just a reminder to everyone that conditions are changing in the back country,” said Berry. “Even in this weather we’ve had, they can change very rapidly and we want to remind people to go out well prepared.”

Another call earlier that week didn’t go quite as well for the CVGSAR team.

Last Thursday, members spent the afternoon and evening searching for a missing dog that had been swept down the falls at Browns River, just northwest of Courtenay.

Owner, Jonny Mac had been walking his three dogs when two of them ended up in the river. Mac also fell in while attempting to rescue them, but his bulldog, Rosie, was swept downstream.

“Really our job in those situations is not to rescue the dogs, it’s to look out for the life safety of those who might be trying to rescue the dogs so no people are injured,” said Berry.

After making sure everyone was out of the water, Berry said the team’s swift water specialists searched downstream and in the pools below the falls with snorkels and probes, but were unable to located Rosie.

The team was forced to stop their search at nightfall due to the increased danger for the rescuers.

Berry says CVSGAR has participated in a number of dog and horse rescues over the years, but Emergency Management BC does not fund the rescues of animals.

“Teams do engage in this because we want to make sure the public is safe, and we did throughout the night warn people off the scene as many people were coming in the dark and it was just too dangerous in the spot to have people wandering about,” he said.

In multiple Facebook posts over the weekend, Mac said he has searched everywhere and has “exhausted all options.”

“That’s where I believe she is, in the falls. But there’s that miracle that she could be in the woods,” he said.

Mac has strung up a net across the lower bowl so Rosie will be caught if she is still stuck under the waterfall.

“She’s not a great swimmer and she was drowning when we were at the top [of the falls], so I don’t think she would have had the energy to pull herself out,” said Mac.

He plans to continue going back to the falls to check his net and thanked everyone for their support and help throughout his search.

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Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue helped an 80 year old woman who had fractured her ankle while hiking to Lake Helen McKenzie. (Facebook/Comox Valley Ground Search & Rescue)

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