'It's my first award ever': Hikers honoured after using turbans in Metro Vancouver rescue
Five friends from Surrey, B.C., were presented with awards from the RCMP on Tuesday after a quick-thinking, creative rescue in a provincial park in Metro Vancouver earlier this month.
The group went hiking in Golden Ears Provincial Park in Maple Ridge over Thanksgiving weekend and came across two men stranded near a fast-moving river. One man was on a large rock and the other was lower down, dangerously close to the water’s edge.
At the ceremony where the men were given Community Leader Awards from the Ridge Meadows RCMP, Gurpreet Singh recounted that day.
“We saw those guys, they were struggling to get out,” Singh said. “He was so cold down there, his hands were numb I think.”
With no cell service, the group decided to improvise. The three men wearing turbans unravelled the headdress to make a rope which, when combined with their jackets, was strong enough to pull both hikers to safety.
Supt. Wendy Mehat with Ridge Meadows RCMP praised the actions of the group.
“The two young men were in danger of drowning,” Supt. Mehat said at Tuesday’s ceremony. “Your quick thinking and your heroic actions undoubtedly saved the lives of the two young men at Golden Ears Park.”
Volunteers with Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue arrived on scene shortly after the rescue but their services weren’t needed. Search manager Rick Laing said it could have been a much different outcome.
“The location where this occurred, it’s a common spot from where we pull people out or we recover bodies,” Laing said, adding that by the look of the video it appeared the group had the “presence of mind” to stay well above the rushing water.
“I thought it was very ingenious,” he said.
At the ceremony, Supt. Mehat also paid tribute to the religious significance of the rescue. In Sikh faith, turbans should not be removed in public and are usually only taken off in the privacy of the home, unless it's used to help others.
“In these matters we really don’t care if it’s religious or not. It’s one person's life, we can save it,” Singh said. "We can tie it (the turban) again as many times as we want, but that life, we can’t bring it back.”
Initially, the group was hesitant to share the video at all, according to Laing.
“They were really, really reluctant heroes. They didn’t want to have it known to everybody,” he said, adding he’s glad the group got the “recognition that they deserve.”
Singh, 21, said they didn’t expect it to “blow up that much.”
“My parents got so many congratulations from my relatives and, like, villagers, so I’m very proud,” he said. “It’s never happened before, it’s my first award ever in my life.”