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North Shore Rescue posts historic day

First time using night vision, breaking the record for call-outs and finding lost subjects an hour before they were reported missing.

Dec. 23, 2020 will go down in the history books for North Shore Rescue. In the span of a few hours, the team set the record for the most call-outs in a year, found two lost snowshoers an hour before they were even reported missing, and carried out their first-ever rescue using night vision goggles.

Team leader Mike Danks and North Shore Rescue’s helicopter crew were just a few minutes into a training session with their night vision goggles, which they only just received regulatory approvals to use, when one of the members spotted something in the trees on Mount Seymour.

“He said ‘You won't believe this, but I've got somebody in the creek. There's a light flashing up at the helicopter,’” he said.  “Clear as day …it just casts a huge beam out.”

When they came in for a closer look, they could see two men were right in the middle of a waterfall on Suicide Creek. At that point, no one had been reported missing but Danks said it’s an area no one should be in. The terrain was too steep to safely land the helicopter, but they were able to lower a bag of supplies to help the two subjects keep warm and communicate with rescuers while two field teams made their way in, Danks said.

“It's a long way to get in there and it's through really steep terrain and icy conditions so my hat is off to those two teams that went in,” he said.

When the wife of one of the subjects called police to report the men overdue an hour later, she was surprised to learn the team had already found them and was working to get them out.

“That's a first,” Danks said. “Ever.”

The woman knew her husband was on Seymour but didn’t know which trail he was planning to be on, meaning it would have been an extremely difficult search. Having the night vision technology and a big stroke of luck was absolutely critical to getting them out, he added.

“I have no doubt in my mind that we would not have found them last night,” Danks said. “Merry Christmas, right there to them.”

Earlier in the day, a woman fell and injured herself on Seymour’s Dog Mountain trail. Because the mountains are absolutely crammed with skiers and snowshoers, the team opted to fly in where they were able to quickly sling the subject back out.

They were the 145th and 146th times North Shore Rescue had been called out this year, breaking the previous record of 144. Teams all over the province have been extremely busy in 2020, thanks to the pandemic sending people outdoors for recreation, Danks said.

“There's just so many people getting out in the mountains and a lot of them are just not prepared. Even yesterday we had people walking by us wearing running shoes in full winter conditions,” he said.  “We encourage people to get out there, but you really need to make sure you have the right equipment with you.”

Setting the record for the most calls in a year, using their new night vision goggles and making their first-ever rescue before a subject was reported missing means North Shore Rescue is finishing 2020 on a high note, Danks said.

“It was a beautiful day and it really brought everyone's spirits up. You know it's been a COVID year and it's really been taxing on everyone. And I think for our team, this has just brought everyone together,” he said.