The B.C. Coroners Service has confirmed the body recovered from the North Shore backcountry on Tuesday is that of missing hiker Liang Jin.
Members of Jin’s family found his body under a boulder in Hanes Valley in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park on Monday. Police tasked North Shore Rescue volunteers with recovering the body for the coroner on Tuesday.
“It’s sad news and our condolences go out to his family,” said Doug Pope, North Shore Rescue search manager.
Jin’s parents reported him missing to Vancouver police on Jan. 3. The last they had heard from him was a text message on Dec. 31 saying he was going for a hike. It wasn’t until police searched his computer and found that he had been researching North Shore backcountry hikes that North Shore Rescue became involved on Jan. 5.
“We were well behind the Eight Ball by then. Five days out in the wilderness in a cold, snowy environment doesn’t leave us a lot of chance of getting a good outcome,” Pope said. “Likely he had already passed away by the time we started looking for him.”
The coroner is still investigating the exact cause of death but Pope said it was likely due to exposure. It appears Jin crawled under a boulder to seek shelter, Pope said.
The search effort for Jin lasted weeks and at one point, North Shore Rescue members were called in to save two friends of the Jin family who had continued the search on their own in dangerous conditions, against the advice of team leader Mike Danks. Jin’s body was about 300 metres southwest of the team’s helipad near Crown Pass, well north of Grouse Mountain.
“We had dogs in there. We were very close to that location. It just shows the difficulty in trying to locate an unresponsive subject in winter conditions and not visible from the air,” Pope said.
While the team is primarily sad for Jin’s family, North Shore Rescue members also take these losses personally as well, Pope said. Team members put in about 300 volunteer hours in the search.
“You can’t help but think ‘What could we have done better to help find him and get that closure for the family?’ but, I think we did our very best and every member should be proud at the effort we put in,” he said,
Jin’s disappearance was eerily similar to that of Tom Billings, the British tourist who was last seen headed for Lynn Headwaters Regional Park in Nov. 2013. That also triggered a massive search. North Shore Rescue has been in touch with his family.
“They were going to hear things in media about something going on so we kept in contact with them as well,” he said.
While there are thankfully very few fatalities in the backcountry, this one serves as a sad reminder about the risk of going into the backcountry unprepared, Pope said.
Rescuers would have had a fighting chance had Jin left his exact plans and expected time of return with his family, allowing the effort to get under way much sooner, Pope said. And, even though there is little or no cell phone coverage in that area, satellite beacons and VHF radios can be used to call for help.