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UPDATED: North Shore Rescue leader Tim Jones dies

The North Shore was in shock today after Tim Jones, the long-time North Shore Rescue team leader, died suddenly from an apparent heart attack on Sunday.
Tim Jones
North Shore Rescue team leader Tim Jones.

The North Shore was in shock today after Tim Jones, the long-time North Shore Rescue team leader, died suddenly from an apparent heart attack on Sunday.

Jones, 57, had spent the day at the team’s Mount Seymour cabin and was walking back to the parking lot with his daughter, Taylor, and other members of North Shore Rescue when he reportedly said, “Hang on a minute” and collapsed suddenly.

Those at the scene started CPR immediately and emergency responders including paramedics, firefighters and members of North Shore Rescue raced to the scene. Jones was rushed to Lions Gate Hospital but doctors were unable to save him.

City of North Vancouver Fire Chief Dan Pistilli was among the many first responders who knew Jones who raced to the hospital Sunday night.

Pistilli said fellow North Shore Rescue teammates and Jones’ colleagues from the B.C. Ambulance Service where he worked as a paramedic were in shock at the news.

“It was tough to see them,” he said. “It really hit home who it was.”

As leader of North Shore Rescue, for much of his life, Jones was on the other end of efforts to save lives in the North Shore mountains. Jones, who worked a day job as an advanced life support paramedic, could usually be counted on to drop everything when someone was lost or in trouble and lead a team of experienced backcountry rescuers into often treacherous terrain.

Jones had been on call with North Shore Rescue since 1989 when, during one of his first rescue operations, he was lowered from a helicopter into a ravine on Mount Seymour to rescue a hiker who’d fallen and injured himself. Years later, he told a reporter about the mixture of fear and adrenaline he felt when the helicopter was caught in a fog bank. When the rescue was finished, he was hooked.

Jones worked with North Shore Rescue for more than 25 years, participating in more than 1,400 rescues and becoming the face of the organization. In 2011 he was awarded the Order of B.C. and in 2012 was given an honourary doctorate by Capilano University.

“It is an amazing loss,” said Pistilli. “There’s just not enough people to do what Tim has done in this community.”

“There wasn’t a minute in the day that he wasn’t supporting the community. You’d often see him with two cellphones in his hand.”

Pistilli said Jones leaves very big shoes to fill.

As news spread Sunday night and throughout Monday morning, community leaders and online commentators alike quickly expressed their shock and sadness at the news, calling Jones a "true superhero" and offering condolences to his family.

City of North Vancouver Mayor Darrell Mussatto, a friend of Jones and fellow paramedic, said Jones’ death is a “big loss” for the North Shore.

“Tim was an amazing guy. Huge. He did a tremendous amount of work in the community as a volunteer,” said Mussatto. “We’re still in shock.”

Jones was Mussatto’s instructor when he joined the B.C. Ambulance Service 30 years ago.

Finding someone to take on all of Jones’ responsibilities with North Shore Rescue will be a tremendous challenge, Mussatto said.

“Tim Jones has raised and maintained the bar in terms of compassion, sincerity, courage, and overall genuine capability. He has (been) and will continue to be a key source of personal inspiration,” wrote Steve Donaghey on North Shore Rescue’s Facebook page.

Luci Cadman, a British tourist who Jones recently rescued on Mount Seymour, wrote that she was heartbroken over news of his death.

The parents of Tom Billings, a British man lost in the local mountains for whom Jones had organized exhaustive searches, also expressed their shock and sadness, calling Jones a “tower of strength” and “selflessly courageous.”

B.C. Premier Christy Clark issued a statement saying, "Tim represented the North Shore and B.C. at our absolute best. He dedicated the best part of his life to helping people in the worst moment of theirs —Tim's North Shore Rescue team often meant the difference between life and death.”

She credited Jones with building one of North America’s most innovative and successful search-and-rescue teams.

Jones is survived by his wife and two adult children, including a son who is also a member of North Shore Rescue, and his mother.

A celebration of life is being planned for Saturday, Jan. 25 at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver.