Search and rescue member discourages online shaming of people rescued off B.C. mountains
A Coquitlam Search and Rescue member is warning others about the danger of online shaming backcountry adventure seekers who often need help in unforeseen situations.
“Nobody goes on a hike and starts the day thinking they will end the day being rescued,” Michael Coyle of Coquitlam SAR told CTV News Vancouver.
Last week, 21-year-old Toronto resident Nikki Donnelly died while hiking the Howe Sound Crest Trail in Cypress Provincial Park.
In the aftermath of her death, much was made online about Donnelly's decision to call her boyfriend in the most critical first moments instead of 911.
In Coyle's opinion, the armchair criticism by those on social media could have consequences.
“The online criticism isn’t meaningless or just noise,” he said. “I think it actually has a public safety effect and makes people reluctant to call for help.”
Coyle said people can often put off reaching out for rescue to avoid ridicule, or they may think it is associated with a hefty cost.
He also said those taking on outdoor adventures to post Instagram photos should not be subject to online shaming.
“Everyone has their reason for climbing mountains,” Coyle said. “The early mountaineers, as soon as cameras were invented, they were bringing those cameras with them and documenting those climbs."
Close friends of Donnelly's describe her as an avid traveller with outdoor experience and said while she shared pictures of her adventures online, her posts were never sponsored.
Donnelly's close friend, Dana Morvan, told CTV News Vancouver the young woman was outgoing and inspirational.
"She'd just love to go to places by herself," Morvan said. "It helped her find a sense of joy, and basically, just find herself, just explore different situations and obstacles that she could overcome by herself."