A Chilliwack man is featured in a new book that takes readers behind the scenes at some of North America’s riskiest search and rescue operations.
The book is called Rescue Me. Adam Laurie appears in a chapter about the most dangerous of all SAR activities, swiftwater rescue.
Laurie shares three stories with author Cathalynn Labonte-Smith, all three ending in heartbreak.
Laurie, who now works at the Manning Park Resort as an Assistant Parks/Ski Patrol Manager, signed up with Chilliwack Search and Rescue (SAR) in 1999 and went by the call-sign Chilliwack 50. On May 4, 2020 he went to Foley Lake in the upper Chilliwack River Valley. A family of five was in an ATV on a forest service road that hit a muddy patch and toppled down an embankment. It landed in five metres of water and two children, ages 9 and 10, drowned.
Laurie was part of the team that recovered their bodies, and he said he experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for months afterwards. Without the support of Chilliwack SAR, teammates and a really good psychologist, he doesn’t know if he would have made it back.
“Through my sessions I learned so much about my mental health, how I respond and I now have an even stronger resiliency plan,” he says in the book.
On the Canada Day long weekend in 2016 Laurie was one of 26 people called to Chehalis Lake to find a missing man who was eventually found, deceased. While searching in the Chehalis Canyon, the man’s girlfriend fell down a steep embankment and a friend got stuck after climbing down to try and rescue her.
Laurie was the one who broke the news to the woman that her boyfriend was dead.
“There were moments of tears, hugs, anger and genuine empathy, all while (we were) tied together and anchored on a log that was jammed into the canyon wall,” he said in the book. “Those are the moments that, although the outcome is unfortunate, it is why I am a member of SAR and will continue.”
On Feb. 28, 2017 Laurie and other Chilliwack SAR members joined Hope SAR in Manning Park, looking for a missing semi-truck and its driver, Pat Gaudet. They found it 30 metres down an embankment near Rhododendron Flats.
A rope system lowered Laurie down a snowy embankment where he found Gaudet hanging upside down, pinned by his steering wheel. The entire cab of the truck had to be dismantled to get him out.
“I kept trying to talk to the patient and keep his spirits up,” Laurie says in the book. “These connections stick with you. I think sometimes I am the lucky one that gets to meet these people when they are at their worst and attempt to provide a calming presence.”
Like the stories before, this one ended in heartbreak. It took 10 hours to get Gaudet out of the truck and into an ambulance, but he died a few days later in hospital.
Despite the stories that end in sadness, many end in success. Laurie says he loves what he does and has no plans to quit.
“It opened the door to new friendships, as the river is a place where bonds are forged like steel — they last forever, regardless of the places we go or the changes we make.”
Rescue Me can be ordered online at caitlin-press.com/our-books/rescue-me/.