Inside the reality of search and rescue

LETHBRIDGE – A small white plane crashes into a farmer’s field just west of Lethbridge.

The couple in the aircraft sustain serious injuries and immediately signal for help. Hours later, a search and rescue plane appears in the sky and two paramedics parachute down.

When they reach the two in distress, the man is dead and the woman is complaining about severe back and leg pain.

This is only a mock rescue mission, but it is as close to the reality search and rescue technicians (SAR Techs) with the Canadian Armed Forces regularly face.

“For us to be doing training like this is awesome because when it comes to the real deal our confidence is right where it should be,” said Master Cpl. Donovan Ball, a new SAR Tech.

Confidence is key, as the real thing can be much more critical.

Story continues below advertisement

“When we get on scene, people are actually hurt. There’s usually more than one, two, sometimes four or five people. That’s quite overwhelming when you’re just a two man paramedic team,” explained Master Cpl. Carl Portman, a 7 year SAR Tech.

Depending on the location of a crash, paramedics could also be stuck for days with victims until transportation arrives.

SAR Techs training for a plane crash rescue west of Lethbridge. Sarolta Saskiw / Global News

CASARA is a national volunteer organization funded by the Department of National Defence that promotes flight safety for general aviation to reduce the number of plane crashes that occur.

The Lethbridge team was helping SAR Techs this week with mission training, recreating the crash scene and providing fill-in actors.

“It’s very much a privilege,” said Martin Nordstrom, commander of CASARA Lethbridge. “It gives us the ability to do things we ordinarily wouldn’t do, which includes survival and first aid training.

Story continues below advertisement

Playing a victim, volunteer Alison Herman gets an up-close look at the intensity behind a rescue.

“It gives you an idea of what it is actually like to go into a scene and see it from a victim’s perspective,” she said. “If there is someone out there who needs help, and knowing someone is on their way.”

There are 148 SAR Techs that do search and rescue mission all over Canada. The majority of these paramedics have some form of military training.

Sponsored content