Jim Elliot

Column: When you become part of the story

Reporter Jim Elliot helps with rescue of missing hang glider pilot

Going to work with a camera in hand has a way of putting you in situations you wouldn’t otherwise find yourself in.

This job offers many opportunities for chance occurrences and glimpses behind the scenes into events that run the spectrum from beautiful to terrifying.

One recent occurrence where I found myself in the middle of a series of events when I had only intended to be a distant observer took place this past Friday on Queest mountain.

While on assignment in Sicamous, I received word that a hang-glider pilot was missing and had apparently crashed on the mountain. A Shuswap Volunteer Search and Rescue crew was already on their way to search for him.

Hoping to be able to publish a good-news story about the searchers quickly locating the downed glider pilot, but fearing the worst, I set off up the mountain.

I knew the route along the dusty logging roads to the hang-glider ramp well because the ramp provides a photographer’s dream-view of the Narrows and the adjoining Shuswap and Mara lakes.

As I was winding my way up a narrow and heavily forested portion of the road, concern about my chosen route was growing. I had not yet encountered any search and rescue vehicles or volunteers. Suddenly, I saw something I hadn’t expected to see.

By the side of the road stood a man wearing an exhausted expression and a large smear of dirt across the front of his shirt.

As I didn’t see a vehicle nearby, I stopped to make sure he was alright. It turned out I had stumbled upon the downed hang-glider pilot, who had walked away from the crash and was familiar enough with the area to hike to a road.

He seemed grateful for the ride down the mountain and the use of my cell phone to begin calling off the search; I regret I didn’t have any water to offer him as it was a punishingly hot afternoon.

Shortly after picking up the pilot, who was uninjured except for a possibly broken rib, we encountered the RCMP and search and rescue crews who whisked him away to be checked over by paramedics.

Seeing myself mentioned in the police report we received about the incident was a surreal experience for someone who is often present, but never really a part of the events that fill the newspaper’s pages each week.

It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. I wouldn’t have been a part of the story without a job that constantly calls for going out of my way to take a closer look at things.

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