E&B Helicopters, dramatic rescues and the love of dogs

Campbell River Courier-Islander
September 03, 2014
By Campbell River Courier-Islander
Sept. 3, 2014, Campbell River, B.C. - It is hard to say 'no' to man's best friend. Just ask Jamie Turko and E&B Helicopters. A volunteer rescue took place on Tuesday for 'Brody', a 12-year old, 140-pound grand shepherd, who had joined his family on a Strathcona Park hike to Bedwell Lake last Saturday, with a final destination of Cream Lake.

Jason and Skye Hobbs, from Courtenay, are experienced outdoor enthusiasts who back country ski, rock climb, hike and camp regularly. Their plan was to go to Cream Lake to spread the cremated remains of Skye's mother.

They didn't make it.

"We hiked into Bedwell late Saturday by headlight, and made camp," said Jason. "Our plan was to leave Sunday morning for Cream Lake, one of the most beautiful spots on the Island."

Three hours into that journey, and about 100 metres above Cream Lake, the couple noticed that Brody was having difficulty walking.

"We did not see him get hurt so we don't know what happened but he was limping on his back leg," said Jason. "This is the most difficult place to get hurt, we were about as far into the back country as you could be. He couldn't put weight on his back leg and was favoring the other one, then that one started to give out too."

The couple turned around and about half way back to Bedwell Lake they knew they were not going to make it out.

"We decided that maybe he just needed a day's rest," said Jason. "So I decided to go back with him to the campsite, we had food for both of us and it is a good loca tion to be found by rescuers, so Skye left because we had our kids at the grandparent's house and she needed to get us some help."

Hobbs said it should have taken an hour to get back to camp, but due to Brody's injury, it took five hours with the dog walking for 30 seconds then stopping for 10 minutes.

"At some points he was not using his back legs at all and was dragging his back-end along the ground," said Jason. "We finally rolled into camp Monday night. The next morning Brody could not get up, he was not eating or drinking.

"I was really worried about him. My friend hiked in with some food and camping gear and we built a stretcher to carry him out. We got him on it but he was too big and with the ladders and stairs on the trail going out and Brody weighing 140 pounds, he is as big as they make a dog, I knew we would need at least six guys with a system of pulleys to get him out."

Jason sent his friend back to find out what protocols were in place for Campbell River Search and Rescue to be involved.

But because the province does not fund search and rescue groups to save animals, they could not help.

"I found out later there was a helicopter available but it would cost $2,200. I have four daughters and a mortgage, I just don't have that kind of money floating around."

Jason planned to leave Brody at the campsite with food, water and their tent, hike out Tuesday evening and go back in Wednesday with "a bunch more guys" and try to hike out with the dog.

"I didn't know what was going on while I was in camp, so if I did not see anyone on Tuesday I was going to have to leave him. My hope was that people would realize there would be amateurs at risk if they had to come in and try to get Brody out."

Jason was getting ready to leave his injured dog out there alone when he heard it.

"I heard the helicopter. And the funny thing is at the exact same time a group of my really good friends came into camp and said they had seen the helicopter and were trying to beat it in. They were laughing and saying the (helicopter) rescuers were not going to steal their thunder, that they were there first to rescue me."

The helicopter was from E&B Helicopters with pilot Kirk Hesketh and off duty Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteer Jamie Turko, who also owns Destiny River Adventures.

"The province does not pay Search and Rescue to save animals so I was not working for SAR when I volunteered my time," said Turko. "There was another plan to get about 20 SAR volunteers on their off time to go in with a stretcher pack but it would have been 10 or 20 hours just to carry him out of there. The helicopter rescue took an hour. We were able to land the helicopter about a eight minute hike (300 metres) to Jason and Brody, but the pack out was, of course, a little longer with a 140 pound dog over my shoulders."

Turko, who has level two first aid and is trained in helicopter rescue, assessed the dog's injury and said there was no way the dog was going to make it out of there any other way.

"He was so well behaved and co-operative, other than crying and whining because he was hurting, he knew we were there to help him. With minor first aid and my strength, we got him into the helicopter along with his owner and back to the trail head to their vehicle in about eight minutes."

Brody's family and Turko praised E&B Helicopters for donating their time and fuel to this mission, and Turko said he was happy to put his training to use for 'man's best friend.'

"Words cannot express the gratitude I have for these men and for E&B Helicopters for donating their time and chopper," said Hobbs. "Brody is resting at home and making a slow but steady recovery."

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