Penticton and District Search and Rescue helicopter teams training in the South Okanagan recently.

Penticton and District Search and Rescue helicopter teams training in the South Okanagan recently.

Penticton search and rescue save disorientated hiker

A disoriented hiker was rescued by the Penticton and District Search and Rescue teams on Friday.

A disoriented hiker was rescued by the Penticton and District Search and Rescue teams on Friday.

Keep blowing your whistle every few minutes, we have help on the way,” was the advice that Ron Muir – Penticton and District Search and Rescue (PENSAR) manger gave to a hiker lost on the Cartwright Mountain area of Summerland.

PENSAR mobilized 10 personnel and a helicopter team after receiving a request 5:35 p.m. on Friday (Sept. 2). Summerland RCMP received a distress call from a 54-year-old female hiker who had become disoriented while hiking. Both RCMP and the Summerland fire department were in the area and realized that with daylight diminishing and poor weather conditions they needed additional resources.

Muir advised he was able to maintain contact with the hiker via phone which assisted in identifying an area where she could be located and counselled her to stay in one location, blow her whistle every few minutes and stay under cover as weather was cool and raining.

Around 7 p.m., while ground teams were setting up to deploy all-terrain vehicles, the helicopter team with the aid of ground control were guided to a higher elevation on the mountain where the subject was able to be spotted. With the aid of the hiker blowing her whistle, searchers were able to quickly locate and guide her back to the helicopter. Wet and cold the hiker was transported down the mountain and released to health authorities for an assessment.

“Things went so right here — the hiker knew when to call for help early, she stayed in one location, had a whistle which proved useful for searchers locating her and we had enough light to utilize our air operations. For us — a happy ending,” said Muir.

PENSAR received a record number of calls in August, three involving the use of the helicopter team (HETS) to respond to medical emergencies following injured ATV operators or hikers in the region where the medical situation required quick action by first responders.

“Getting injured parties to a higher level of care as quickly as possible while minimizing further injury is a priority and one of the advantages of using an air evacuation or HETS platform,” said Randy Brown, public affairs officer and SAR manager. “Where it may take ground teams longer to get to a subject, if the medical situation or the terrain dictates that a HETS strategy would be safer we integrate both options with air operations and then add ground teams as support or back up.”

Brown said the helicopter team typically sees action six to 10 times per year, however in 2016 they have been tasked over 12 times.

“PENSAR’s task load this year is running higher than normal with 38 task requests to date and it looks like a trend to repeat last years total of 55 plus task events,” said Brown. “Historically PENSAR used to see 30 to 35 events a year but that trend has been increasing with the amount of outdoor activity increasing in the region.”