First responders with Central Okanagan Search and Rescue (COSAR) were kept busy over the past week, successfully rescuing three people from the backcountry over the span of eight days.
On Feb. 18, rescue crews from across the Okanagan scrambled to help find a 14-year-old snowmobiler who got lost in the Greystokes area, east of Kelowna.
The Kelowna teen was reported missing shortly after 6 p.m. on Monday evening, Feb. 17, after he was separated from his father and his brother.
After the Kelowna RCMP were contacted, rescuers from COSAR, Vernon Search and Rescue, the Canadian Air Force and members of the Kelowna Snowmobile Club launched a rescue operation to find the missing teen.
The following morning, he was spotted around 10 a.m. near Lumby and was airlifted out of the area by Wildcat Helicopters. The boy received medical treatment before he was released later that day.
“We pulled out a lot of stops to make sure we found this young gentleman,” said search manager Duane Tresnich.
“Although he could’ve been better equipped, he had enough cold weather gear to last the night.”
In a separate incident on Feb. 10, COSAR rescued a 60-year-old snowmobiler from Graystokes Provincial Park after the man didn’t return with his group during the Kelowna Snowmobile Club’s poker run.
According to event organizers, the snowmobiler arrived late to the event and got on his snowmobile for the second time ever, travelling by himself and eventually got lost off the trail in deep snow.
The club, along with COSAR, began looking for the man around 7 p.m. on Sunday (Feb. 16) and eventually found him around 3:30 a.m. Monday morning.
While COSAR played a major part in the rescue, volunteers with the Kelowna Snowmobile Club also played a crucial role.
“The Kelowna Snowmobile Club memberswere really essential,” said Ed Henczel, spokesman for COSAR.
“They know the trails really well and they’re all awesome riders, so they split up into two teams and we started combing the trails. I would say our sleds probably racked up 500 kilometers.
“We had our team going in all directions and eventually one of the snowmobile club guys found him.”
The third incident occurred last week behind Little White Mountain near Kelowna.
According to Tresnich, another man riding a snowmobile got stuck in deep snow after he ventured away from his group.
Fortunately, he was able to free himself and get to the main road where he was found.
In each case, the majority of the rescuers were volunteers, according to Henczel.
“We have guys who work all day, they get the call, they go to the hall to get their gear and head up into the woods on the snowmobile, riding all night long,” said Henczel.
“Then, they have to get to work in a couple of hours, so they take off and a second-team comes in. These guys literally have a shower and a cup of coffee and go into work not having slept. That’s not always easy.”
In order to volunteer with the organization, he said rescuers must pass a rigorous recruitment training program, attend weekly training sessions, be available to respond to emergencies and annually devote more than 200 volunteer hours a year.
While the job is demanding, he said most volunteers are deeply passionate about helping the community and saving lives.
“It’s kind of in our blood,” said Tresnich, who has a long line of family members who help others as a job or as a volunteer.
“I come from a family tree of people who do this,” he said.
“My father is a fire chief. I had an uncle who was another fire chief and an aunt who’s a paramedic. I just love to be able to help people.”