A helicopter extraction was needed for an injured, but very fortunate snowbiker in the North Okanagan.
On Saturday, more than 50 people from Western Canada and the U.S. were attending a snowbike event on Park Mountain, north of Lumby, between Mabel and Sugar lakes. Among them was a Kamloops man, who, when riding with a group of others, hit a small gully unexpectedly and was thrown from his snowbike. His friends were nearby and alerted others with their radios.
A member of Vernon Search and Rescue, Trevor Honigman, happened to be riding with the snowbikers and was only a few hundred metres away when he heard the call.
“He impacted very hard and knew he hurt his back, but wasn’t sure the extent of his injuries,” said Honigman. “His riding group did the right thing by keeping him immobile and calling for help without moving him.”
The extent of pain the subject was experiencing quickly led to the decision of contacting 911, and requesting further help. Vernon Search and Rescue was mobilized, including their Helicopter Winch team.
“The remote location and challenging terrain meant that an extraction by ground would have been potentially harmful to the subject. His significant pain indicated a serious injury, and the trip down the mountain on a stretcher behind a snowmobile would have been a challenge,” said Honigman.
While waiting for the rescue teams, the subject was kept warm as possible and immobile. A small fire was made to provide him some warmth.
The helicopter lowered two rescue technicians and a stretcher to the scene, then was able to land a short distance away. Ground search and rescue teams arrived to help secure the subject to a clamshell stretcher with spinal immobilization. He was kept warm with a specialized stretcher package and loaded aboard the helicopter, after which he was transported to BC Ambulance Service and on to Vernon Jubilee Hospital for medical care.
The injured snowbiker has since been released and is expected to fully recover.
Special thanks, said Honigman, goes to the efforts of Lumby Mabel Lake Snowmobile Club for grooming the trail in preparation for the possible snowmobile extraction, and to Wildcat Helicopters for making their helicopter Air Rescue One available on short notice.
This incident brings into focus the importance of being prepared for the unexpected.
Fun excursions into the B.C. wilderness can quickly turn into critical situations. Information and trip-planning tools are available on www.AdventureSmart.ca, which everyone enjoying the outdoors should be made aware of.
In this situation, the use of technology helped as well. Radios, GPS, InReach and SPOT communication devices all help rescue teams respond quickly and efficiently to the location.
“The trend has been gradually improving. Bikers and sledders are equipping themselves with better gear, better communication devices, better clothing,” says Honigman.
“Can I spend up to 24 hours out there alone with what I have?” is a question Vernon Search and Rescue has been challenging snowbikers and sledders to ask themselves. “If I’m injured, separated from my group, or both… what would the outcome be?”