FIRE crews spent three hours rescuing an 18-year-old North Vancouver woman injured cliff jumping at Lynn Canyon around 3 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 29.
Suspecting the teen may have damaged her spine, rescuers immobilized her before hoisting her out of the canyon with ropes. She was taken by ambulance to Lions Gate Hospital. The North Shore News was unable to get any further information about her condition.
The woman, who had been doing the "circuit" with friends - going from waterfall to waterfall in the canyon underneath the suspension bridge and jumping into the river below - was hurt after she landed the wrong way in the water, said senior park ranger Andy Robinson.
"Instead of landing on her feet, she landed more on her hips and her backside," said Robinson. "In the process, (she) injured her back."
The accident serves once again to illustrate the dangers young people face when they cliff jump and swim in the canyon.
It's a risk North Shore teenagers have been taking for more than 60 years, often with deadly results. The summers of 2005, 2006 and 2008 all saw drowning deaths in the treacherous waters of Lynn Creek.
This summer, firefighters responded to eight incidents in the park, five of which required first-aid treatment or an actual rescue. Injuries included sprained ankles, a head injury and a broken hip, all sustained by hikers. Several people had to be rescued after they got stuck in the creek.
"In the beginning of the season, water levels were quite high, and we'd have people go into the water and get stranded on the rocks in the middle of the river," said Robinson. "Ropes systems would be set up and (fire) crews would be called out to wade across and get the individuals out."
The number of calls this summer held steady with the number of incidents in previous years. The fire service responded to eight calls in 2011 and seven in 2010.
The statistics are much better than they were in the 1980s and early 90s, when there were 17 deaths in the canyon in the space of 12 years, said Victor Penman, fire chief for the District of North Vancouver.
Penman and Robinson attribute the improving statistics to Lynn Canyon's park ranger program, which works closely with the fire department. The program, which has been running for nearly 20 years, sees five additional park rangers hired for the period between Victoria Day and Labour Day. The fire department trains the rangers in first aid and emergency response.
The rangers are on duty in the park seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10: 30 p.m., patrolling the park and speaking to people about the dangers of cliff jumping and swimming in the river. They also do a lot of alcohol pour-outs - a contributing factor in many bad decisions made by park guests, said Robinson.
"It was astounding, the lowering of the frequency of the number of incidents of this nature in the canyon" after the program started, said Penman. "Just their presence and their approach, which was a proactive approach, not as much an aggressive enforcement approach."
Banning cliff jumping altogether, an approach considered by district officials in the early 1990s, would lead to potentially dangerous problems of its own, said Robinson.
"The majority of the time they're going to try and take off and try to get away from the enforcement officer," said Robinson. "Now we're getting into a chase scenario, which could lead to somebody getting injured. If a young person jumps over a fence and is injured, that could open up the municipality to a huge liability."
The summer park ranger program costs the district $100,000 a year. Rescues in the canyon do not saddle the fire department with additional costs, said Penman, because they use on-duty fire crews. If another emergency happened at the same time, the district would call on neighbouring municipalities, like the City of North Vancouver, for help.