After fifteen hours, volunteers with the Chilliwack, Hope, Harrison and Kent search teams headed home down the Coquihalla highway, after successfully locating a missing snowmobiler, lost somewhere near the Britton Creek rest area.
The 28-year-old Abbotsford man had become separated from his group after becoming stuck in the deep snow.
“I believe they were all together, then one of them got stuck, and then the others got stuck. Once the two had freed themselves, they figured the first one had already come out. But when they got back to the parking lot he wasn’t there,” said Hope search manager, Barry Gannon.
The missing man, unable to free his snowmobile, had started to hike out, and that made our search a bit more difficult, added Gannon. “His friends were only able to point out on the map where he had been last seen.”
The Hope rescue team was called in after dark, Sunday evening, January 16, and with the avalanche danger rated at extreme, Gannon kept his volunteers out of the bush and called the Canadian Armed Forces Search and Rescue Squadron 442 for assistance.
Although winter flying conditions were poor, the Buffalo aircraft flew the region, setting off flares “to comfort him and let him know someone was looking,” added Gannon.
At first light, the volunteers, backed up by avalanche technicians, loaded their snowmobiles and headed into the area known to local snowmobilers as the Peanut Bowl.
Approximately thirty minutes into the bush, the team was able to locate and then follow the man’s tracks. The snowmobiler was found cold, wet and a little hypothermic, but otherwise safe.
“It had a happy outcome at the end,” said Greg Unruh, of Chilliwack Search and Rescue, who stepped into the search manager role mid-way through the efforts.
And once again, reminds Unruh, as he traveled home past Hope, “if you are headed into the backcountry be prepared, bring survival gear, read the avalanche warnings – these guys did none of those things.”
Along with 18 search and rescue volunteers and the armed forces SAR team, police and B.C. Ambulance paramedics assisted in the search. Merritt Search and Rescue and the Merritt snowmobile club were also put on standby.