Vernon helicopter winch team help rescue man on cliff ledge north of Kamloops

The Vernon Search and Rescue helicopter winch team was called in to help rescue an injured snowmobiler from a cliff ledge in the Avola area north of Kamloops, Saturday, Jan. 15, 2017.
Image Credit: Mike Ritcey

KAMLOOPS - A man is in the hospital after local search and rescuers pulled him off a cliff ledge in the Avola area north of Kamloops where his snowmobile crashed on the weekend.

The rescue operation started in the late evening on Saturday, Jan. 14 and lasted until daybreak when a Vernon Search and Rescue team used a helicopter winch to get the injured man off the ledge.

The victim and three friends were snowmobiling near Avola when he and his sled went over a 15-foot cliff, landing on a ledge below. His friends were able to reach him, but not able to get him out of the situation. They called Wells Grey Search and Rescue around 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Kamloops Search and Rescue were also called to assist, Kamloops search manager Alan Hobler says, because they have an expert avlanche technician. Avalanches were a concern in the rescue area.

While snowmobile teams were able to get into the area, it was decided that they wouldn’t be able to safely access the injured man and get him out due to uncertain terrain. The man and three friends spent the night on the cliff ledge.

At daybreak a helicopter was able to get above the area and assess the situation.

“We were unable to put the helicopter down to rescue and it was a far distance from anywhere to put down,” Hobler says. “It was also very difficult to access using snowmobiles so we decided to call in the Vernon Search and Rescue’s winch operation.”

With the sky clear for a couple hours between storms, the Vernon team was able to fly in, hover and winch down to the ledge where the injured man was loaded into a rig and lifted into the helicopter. He was taken to Royal Inland Hospital with a serious but non life-threatening injury to his leg, Hobler says.

Of the man’s three friends, one had to helicoptered out as well due to cold and anxiety, one was able to drive out and third was driven out. Hobler says the remaining snowmobiles will be retrieved at a later date.

In total, six members from the Clearwater based Wells Grey team were involved in the rescue, along with 13 volunteers from Kamloops Search and Rescue and the Vernon helicopter winch team.

Hobler says the snowmobile group were dressed for daytime activities, but not properly equipped for a night in the backwoods. Luckily the three uninjured riders were cold, but didn’t need to go to hospital.

The four riders were all from out of province, Hobler says, which is quite common for snowmobile rescue operations. He says a lot of riders come from the prairies to drive around in the mountains, but that they don’t necessarily understand the terrain as well as locals, which can lead to trouble.


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