Hope and Chilliwack search crews, together with the RCMP, dealt with back-to-back call outs Sunday, July 26 involving people stranded in the outdoors and unable to get themselves to safety.
Crews were first called out to the Coquihalla River below the third of the Othello Tunnels to assist in getting two men stranded on either side of the river back to safety. Later Sunday night, crews climbed Mount Outram to retrieve a hiker who had not arrived back home.
Around 7 p.m. Sunday, Cpl. Mike Rail with the RCMP’s Upper Fraser Valley Regional detachment confirmed police received a call about two men who were stranded on opposite sides of the Coquihalla River at the Othello Tunnels. Hope and Chilliwack rescue teams were called in to rescue a 28-year-old Port Coquitlam man and a 29-year-old Vancouver man Rail said.
Three SAR members used a raft to paddle across the river and retrieve the man who was furthest away. Once the first person was safe, they then paddled downriver to retrieve the second person who was perched on a boulder and unable to swim to safety. The rescuers worked under Pelican lights and headlamps as the rescue took place during and after sunset. Both men were rescued just before 10 p.m. and neither were injured Rail said.
At around 9:30 p.m. a separate call came in from the brother of a hiker reporting his sibling overdue from a summit of Mount Outram along Highway 3 near Sunshine Valley and E.C. Manning Provincial Park. Fresh off of the Coquihalla River rescue, a crew from Hope Volunteer Search and Rescue as well as rescuers from Chilliwack deployed to the mountain. They spent five hours climbing to reach the mountaintop in the early hours of Monday Rail said. A Vancouver man in his 50s was located and brought back safe and sound Rail added.
These rescues, while both successful in bringing the subjects to safety, serve as a reminder to those who venture out near waterways and in the backcountry Rail cautioned.
“The water is so high and the rivers are rushing, you really have to be cautious. And if you don’t have the skills and the experience to be on the water, don’t go on the water,” he said. While no longer at peak freshet, local rivers are still running high. Even with warnings from RCMP to use lifejackets and not venture into water deeper than an arms length, people were observed tubing on the Coquihalla River downstream from the Peers Creek Forest Service Road bridge over the B.C. Day long weekend.
Earlier this summer, searchers scoured the Coquihalla River for a 50-year-old man last seen in the water upstream from the tunnels. The July 2 search came up empty.
The Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park, within which is the popular tourist destination the Othello Tunnels, is currently closed. The BC Parks website does not yet have an opening date set for the park, and warned on June 26 that the park was closed as ‘unstable rock conditions’ exist within the tunnels.
Earlier this year, the provincial parks agency warned of rock fall at the tunnels as well as landslides on the Kettle Valley Rail trail leading into the park. “Ongoing extreme hazards continue to exist in the area,” a March 2 warning noted.
Rail added that people heading into the backcountry should remember to stay within their skills. “Stay within the limits and respect the outdoors and the backcountry for how powerful it is,” he said. The overdue hiker did the right thing, Rail noted, by making a trip plan and communicating it with someone who was able to alert authorities when he failed to return in time.
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