Kamloops Search and Rescue looks back on a record 2016 - InfoNews

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Kamloops Search and Rescue looks back on a record 2016

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
December 23, 2016 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - It's been a record year for the Kamloops Search and Rescue team, who have responded to 39 calls for service.

Search manager Alan Hobler says the group's previous record for calls out was 35, although they were stood down for many.

"About 50 per cent we get stood down at some point," he says. "Either the subject’s located, or if it’s a rescue the people self-rescue or another agency gets the people out."

A record year for calls also resulted in more donations than usual. KSAR helped rescue a family of skiers in February, who went out of bounds at Sun Peaks. After their rescue, the family made a large donation to the search team.

With that, KSAR was able to purchase a new piece of equipment, which aided them in another search this year. The inflatable kayak the group purchased almost acts as a water-resistant stretcher, Hobler says.

Earlier this year, Kamloops Search and Rescue members took to the Thompson River to test out their new inflatable kayak.
Earlier this year, Kamloops Search and Rescue members took to the Thompson River to test out their new inflatable kayak.

"We did a rescue for a dog that had fallen off a cliff and landed in the lake," he says. "It was perfect for being used almost as an inflatable stretcher to get that dog, I think that was the day after we got that raft so it was perfect timing."

They've also used the kayak in several training exercises and it gives the group the ability to respond to water rescues more quickly.

"It sort of strengthens our ability to go out and respond to things," he says. "We don’t have to now go out and locate a boat."

One of the highlights of this year for the search team was the approval of a provincially-funded one year pilot project for drone usage. Hobler has previously said the drones will help for searches taking place in the dark, or in dangerous terrain.

"That’s one of our highlights," he says. "I think we’re going to be kicking off the new year here knowing that we’ve got a full year of approval to use these drones. I’ve recently talked to many of our neighbours and they’re all very keen to be able to call us out now."

Many of the group's highlights also include memorable searches, though not all had positive outcomes.

"Some of the more memorable ones are usually a negative experience so we’ll pass on those ones," Hobler says. "One of our rescues was a spot activation, which is an emergency satellite beacon. That was a mountaineering accident so we flew over there in helicopters. When we got there the person wasn’t too badly injured, he was just no longer able to travel. He was still a six or seven day hike out to anywhere. He basically lost his eyesight from snow blindness."

Hobler says it's those kinds of calls that give him the most anxiety, not only for the person needing a rescue, but for the members responding. The rescue was in Stein Valley Nlaka'pamux Heritage Park near Lytton.

"It’s a very difficult-to-access location. We potentially could have gotten up there and there could have been multiple casualties and with limited access (and) only one helicopter, we could only bring a limited amount of equipment," he says. "It was very anxious going in there."

Luckily the team was able to rescue the man and it's one of the searches they've responded to this year which has had a happy outcome.

Hobler says one thing the team noticed about many calls this year, was the number of people who they were searching for who didn't want to be found.

"Either mental health issues or drug and alcohol related, we spent a lot of time sort of chasing people around that didn’t necessarily want to be found," he says. "It can be a little frustrating when you’re looking for somebody that you know needs help, but doesn’t want that help at that time."

At the end of this record year, KSAR is looking ahead to plans for 2017. This includes upgrading their computer system to be more effective during large searches and hopefully finding a permanent location for their hall.

"We’ve had temporary locations for the last 15 to 20 years and we’re actively looking out for some piece of land that we could call home," he says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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