‘Full meal deal’: B.C. search-and-rescue training flight saves hypothermic men, dog

Click to play video: 'Two men and dog rescued near Texada Island, B.C.'
Two men and dog rescued near Texada Island, B.C.
A search and rescue helicopter crew on a training mission jumped into action when a boat carrying two men and a dog overturned near Texada Island, B.C. Kylie Stanton reports – Mar 31, 2023

A military search-and-rescue trainee found himself getting the “full meal deal” when his helicopter was tasked to rescue two men and a dog from B.C.’s South Coast on Thursday.

The rescue happened around 3 p.m., after an 87-year-old man and his son found themselves in frigid waters when their boat capsized around Quarry Bay near Texada Island.

The pair were able to phone for help and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre tasked a CH-149 Cormorant helicopter from 19 Wing Comox to respond.

As it turns out another Cormorant was already in the air, but it was a “school” chopper on a training flight, and wasn’t crewed up with search-and-rescue technicians.

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It was, however, much closer to the men in distress, explained to Lt. Col. Jean Leroux, commanding officer of 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron.

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B.C.’s 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron receives international award for 2021 Agassiz rescue

“They looked, they saw we had another helicopter, Cormorant, close by to the scene, so they redirected this school helicopter to locate and to assist as required, because they were I think about five minutes flying from where they were.”

When the Cormorant arrived at the scene, the crew found the two men and the dog had managed to scramble onto a steep rocky shore.

The men had been in the water for about 45 minutes before letting go of the boat from exhaustion, and were showing dangerous signs of exposure, Leroux said.

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“As you can imagine, the Pacific nowadays is not very warm, so they were severely hypothermic, both of them, especially the 87-year-old male,” he said.

Based on the men’s condition, the decision was made not to wait for the second helicopter to arrive, explained Sgt. Simon Jean, the flight engineer on the training cormorant.

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Military aircraft rescues Kamloops paraglider who fell off base of cliff

He said the crew considered trying to land but the area was too steep, so they decided to hoist the men and dog up with a long-line rescue basket.

“The student pilot was quite nervous, he couldn’t believe what was going on, because he was just planning a normal flight trip from one airport to another airport, and next thing you know we’re being asked to put eyes on and guide the rescue platform,” he said.

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“(It) was pretty much their first time on a Cormorant, so I think the student got a full meal deal as far as the SAR experience,” added Leroux.

Once the rescue subjects were aboard, the crew turned to warming them as they flew back to Comox, escorted by the second Cormorant.

Upon landing, SARTechs swarmed the aircraft to assess and stabilize the patients before they were loaded onto a base ambulance and rushed to hospital in serious condition.

A military police officer from the base stepped up to care for the dog while the two men recovered in hospital.

“I think the dog was thankful too, but I don’t speak dog,” quipped Jean.

Both men are expected to fully recover.

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