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Working from mountain tops to the depths of Okanagan Lake: COSAR ‘s year in review

The Central Okanagan Search and Rescue (COSAR) volunteers rescued people from across the region in 2022, from mountain peaks, to valleys, and everywhere inbetween.
COSAR volunteers train in the icy Okanagan Lake. 2022 was the third-busiest year on record for the search and rescue team. (COSAR/Submitted)

The Central Okanagan Search and Rescue (COSAR) volunteers rescued people from across the region in 2022, from mountain peaks, to valleys, and everywhere inbetween.

B.C. receives more call for backcountry rescues than the rest of Canada combined, explained COSAR President Brad Trites.

Of all 78 volunteer search and rescue groups in the province, COSAR is the fourth busiest, said Trites.

In 2022, the team was dispatched to urban searches for lost seniors, winter rescues in extreme cold, rescues of injured mountain bikers, motorcycle and UTV riders and multi-day searches on Okanagan Lake for missing swimmers. COSAR also recovers dead bodies to bring closure to loved ones.

Originally established in 1954, COSAR is the oldest SAR group of its kind in B.C. They are responsible for backcountry emergency services from Oyama to Peachland, and Merritt to Rock Creek.

This past year was Central Okanagan Search and Rescue’s third busiest in its 68-year history, responding to 84 calls, down from the busiest year ever in 2021 with 107 calls.

The 55 volunteers spent a combined total of 21,700 hours training, preparing equipment and executing rescues in urban and backcountry environments this year.

Trites said that he is most proud of the team’s commitment to getting people back home safely, and the hours that they are willing to invest into honing their skills through training.

The specialized e-bike team is one of the features that sets COSAR apart from other search and rescue organizations in Canada.

The electric mountain bikes were especially beneficial during a rescue this fall when COSAR was called for an injured dirt biker who was somewhere near Little White Mountain. The sun had already gone down and rain was falling when the search and rescue team was notified, and they knew that they had to act quickly.

READ MORE: Injured dirt biker saved by Central Okanagan Search and Rescue

“We did not have an exact location of the subject and the probable area only had access via single-track trails which meant that we couldn’t use ATVs or our UTV,” said Trites.

The e-bike team was able to quickly navigate the challenging terrain to find the injured rider.

“Having the e-bike team probably reduced the time of locating the subject by a couple of hours which makes a huge difference when dealing with significant injuries,” said Trites.

One of COSAR’s largest challenges of the year was the 11-day search for Chelsea Cardno along Mission Creek, said Trites.

In 2022, the group added 16 new team members, including medical professionals, and bolstered the high angle and swiftwater teams with increased training and new equipment.

In 2023, COSAR hopes to move into a larger location to accommodate their new members and all their new equipment.

“COSAR is heavily dependent upon the financial support of the community as only 40 percent of our funding for operational costs is provided by the government,” says Trites.

To donate, visit and click the donate button.

READ MORE: Underwater camera and sonar used by COSAR at McKinley Landing, Kelowna


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
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