Winter busy for search volunteers

Nanaimo Search and Rescue volunteers made up for a quiet summer in November.

Nanaimo Search and Rescue volunteers made up for a quiet summer in November.

Kevin McNeill, NSAR past-president and spokesman, said last month – and the first few days of December – volunteers went to four local callouts and three mutual aid calls, which is well above the average 1.5 calls per month and about double the amount of calls received all summer.

Calls included searches for: a man lost in the Harewood Plains area, who turned up in the downtown area after volunteers scoured the area for about 10 hours; a missing 18-year-old with special needs, who was found by a member going home to grab gear to respond to the call; and a 14-year-old who took off after a fight with her parents.

Teams were just heading out to look for the girl when her parents phoned to say she had been found.

Volunteers were also called to recover the body of a man who died in an ATV crash in Lantzville on Nov. 11, added McNeill.

The three mutual aid callouts were for the same incident – to help search for a Port Hardy man who went missing while driving home from a medical appointment in Campbell River. The search went on for several days and each of the three days Nanaimo volunteers attended, they put in at least eight hours, said McNeill.

The man was found dead in his vehicle, which had travelled down an embankment near Marble River, four days after the search started.

While callouts have picked up, the organization’s fundraising initiatives have not.

Members are fundraising to replace their aging rescue vehicles.

Replacing the command truck will cost $164,000, part of which the group hopes to get through a federal grant.

Nanaimo SAR also has a swiftwater rescue vehicle and road rescue truck that also need replacing, which McNeill said could be replaced for about $30,000 if used vehicles can be found.

He said since launching the campaign last summer, the group has added about $1,500 to the vehicle replacement fund, which started with $80,000 from an individual donor.

“Things are a little tougher than we expected,” he said. “You just keep soldiering on. The whole project is a $200,000 project and it’s going to take a while.”