Night-vision goggles lead to historic overnight rescue on North Shore
NORTH VANCOUVER, B.C. -- North Shore Rescue (NSR) is crediting brand new night-vision technology with saving two stranded hikers on Mount Seymour early Thursday morning.
The rescue team was the first volunteer rescue force in Canada approved for a pilot project earlier this month that allows members to use night-vision goggles.
The ground-breaking technology enables rescuers to perform aerial searches well after sunset, and was instrumental in helping save two hikers from spending a freezing night on the mountain.
“A team of NSR members were doing some training flying at night with the Talon Helicopters Dauphine, when they located two individuals in Suicide Creek,” said North Shore Rescue in a post on Facebook.
The hikers, both in their 30s, were stuck on what was essentially a frozen waterfall, said NSR team leader Mike Danks, and were unable to travel up or down the mountain.
Video posted on Instagram by Talon Helicopters, which flew the NSR team, shows the tiny wink of two blinking flashlights that caught rescuers’ attention.
“This was a total fluke, especially because it was our first official flight after our approval (for the goggles),” Danks said. “We almost thought it was a joke, because we were five minutes into our flight.”
A specially trained helicopter team was able to lower supplies and a radio to them by rope shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday night.
The area, which is a part of a complex gully system of cliffs and waterfalls on Mount Seymour, was inaccessible by air, so rescuers hiked in on foot.
Danks said the new goggles helped the team find the hikers an hour before they were even reported missing. With temperatures well below freezing, finding them early significantly cut down on their exposure time.
“They were well prepared to go for a hike,” Danks said.
He added the pair, who were from Vancouver and Langley, had gotten “off track” by following the tracks of other hikers down into the gully.
When the ground team of six volunteers arrived, some rappelled down to the hikers, put them in harnesses, and hoisted them to safer terrain.
The entire group slowly hiked out and was taken to a nearby NSR base shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday.
This was the second rescue of the day for volunteers.
A 26-year-old woman was airlifted from the Dog Mountain area after she twisted her ankle around 1 p.m. Wednesday.
NSR says the hiker did have proper footwear and did everything right, but getting to her was a challenge.
“We went in on the basis that maybe we could walk her out to First Lake and load her into the helicopter, but the traffic up there was just huge, a huge amount of people walking the trails,” said Peter Haig, North Shore Rescue search manager. “It was easier to do the long line out of where she was, and bring her back here.”
The pair of rescues have broken NSR’s all-time record for most calls in a single year, the total now standing at 146.
Volunteers say it’s surprising, considering they didn’t get a call for almost two months during April and May.
Danks said he thinks it’s great so many people are out on the trails, but reminded everyone headed out to do it safety.