Coquitlam SAR still waiting on helicopter rescue equipment

Tri-City News
July 05, 2013
By Tri-City News
July 5, 2013, Coquitlam, B.C. - The latest mission for Coquitlam Search and Rescue ended in the fourth call this season to their North Shore counterparts for a long-line helicopter rescue.

"It's getting a little demoralizing," said Coquitlam SAR manager Michael Coyle. "We were hoping we'd have that tool all ready to go."

The latest search for a 43-year-old man and his dog who went missing on Eagle Ridge on Canada Day, and were stranded on the mountain overnight, ended when he was spotted from the air at about 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Rescuers dropped water to him but because none of the ground teams were close to the hiker North Shore Search and Rescue was called in for a Helicopter Long Line Rescue (HETS). Both the uninjured hiker and his dog were back at the command post by 6 p.m.

There are 13 Coquitlam SAR members trained in long line rescue procedures, but the team is still waiting for the necessary equipment to be able to perform the rescues themselves. They're waiting on Transport Canada to certify new equipment, a process that has now been in the works for about eight months.

Coyle said the number of times they've called on the North Shore SAR team this year is consistent with the predictions they made when applying for the grant money needed to build the team's expertise.

"This is the best way to get someone out of there," Coyle said, adding it could have taken a ground team several more hours to reach the missing hiker on Tuesday.

A Transport Canada spokesperson said the equipment required for long line rescues has evolved over the years, with changes to the materials, specifications and suppliers, all of which need to be approved by the federal agency before it can be used in a rescue.

The delays, she added, are because "the company needs to document the changes that have evolved over time and submit supporting data for Transport Canada's approval."

They are currently waiting for that data from the only company in Canada that is certified to sell it and, in the meantime, "Transport Canada is extending interim approvals for search and rescue societies."

Teams with existing gear have been able to re-certify it but because Coquitlam SAR needed to purchase new equipment, they have to wait for the Transport Canada approvals.

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