A seriously injured hiker was plucked from a Kamloops-area hillside late Friday afternoon thanks to the efforts of Penticton and District Search and Rescue (PENSAR) members.
The mutual aid call came in just before 4 p.m. after crews who initially responded became concerned about the victim going into shock and the difficulty of getting him safely out over the jagged rock terrain.
Members of the PENSAR Helicopter External Transport System (HETS) team were quickly scrambled, three of whom (Rick Bates, Ian King and Jim Burnett) made the hour-long flight with Eclipse Helicopters pilot Derek Robinson to the site on Mt. Savona. Earlier in the afternoon, one of two hikers who had gone off trail on a shortcut to nearby caves dislodged a large rock which struck the other person, breaking his leg and badly injuring his arm.
The Penticton team arrived at the scene shortly after 6 p.m., were able to quickly package the patient up in a clamshell stretcher and airlifted him and SAR tech Burnett by long line beneath the aircraft to a nearby field and waiting ambulance.
According to Robinson, who was at the controls of the helicopter, in spite of the fact daylight was waning and a thunderstorm was quickly approaching, the mission went smoothly.
“We had some lightning and stuff so that made it interesting but everything else went just like clockwork,” he said.
“The crews were really good, they had prepped the individual fast and efficiently, everybody was talking the same language and the ambulance was there waiting. We came in, dropped them (SAR techs) off and we came back in a few minutes and took him down and he was gone.
“From the start of the engine to shutdown it was about 18 minutes.”
King was in the helicopter while Bates and Burnett were lowered to the victim. Burnett and the patient were then removed and Bates was later long-lined out.
This was the second mutual aid call the Penticton HETS team responded to in just over a week. The other was to help the Central Okanagan Search and Rescue crew remove an injured mountain biker from some difficult terrain.
The pilot added as the Penticton team becomes more experienced, the technical aspects of the job get easier.
“Being comfortable doing what we do, we’re able to spend more time focused on the job at hand versus being all excited about hanging out of a helicopter. There’s no hero stuff, this is just what we do,” said Robinson. “You just do the job, we land, reconfigure the aircraft, fly away and go home.”
In addition to the PENSAR team, 19 people from three search and rescue teams — Kamloops, Logan Lake and Nicola Valley — took part.