Arrowsmith Search and Rescue members were honoured for their efforts in a January search when they were presented the Island District RCMP Commander’s Certificate of Appreciation in an October ceremony.
Nick Rivers, Arrowsmith SAR president and search manager, and Paul Nash, vice-president and ground search team leader, were among volunteers and first responders from across the district presented certificates by Island District RCMP Commander Sean Sullivan.
Rivers told The NEWS the Arrowsmith SAR was being honoured for its efforts in conducting a ground search Jan. 24, 2017, for an 87-year-old man who had been missing for more than 24 hours.
Rivers said Arrowsmith Search and Rescue has received many awards from the community, but this is a first from the RCMP.
“The community has been very appreciative of the services we’ve done in the past,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to be recognized on Island District from the RCMP. That’s a pretty big step, I think.”
The search was conducted in a rural bush area with winter weather and dark conditions. Once the 87-year-old was located, the real work began, RCMP said in a written release, as SAR members skillfully assisted the male out of the bush and to awaiting paramedics for medical attention.
“The RCMP is thrilled to have such amazing partners,” said RCMP Sgt. Stephen Rose. “We are always overjoyed with the work performed by Arrowsmith Search and Rescue and were grateful that they received this well-deserved recognition.
“The professionalism and dedication to training and duty shown by these search and rescue members is exemplary,” said Rose.
Rivers said the search went on through the night, but the first thing the team did was head out to Horne Lake because that’s where John Baartman had told people he was heading for some firewood.
Rivers said there wasn’t any sign of Baartman’s vehicle or vehicle tracks. He said members then brought in the Alberni Valley Rescue Squad to search the Horne Lake area from the Hump side and the Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue to start at Cook Creek and work their way back to Horne Lake.
“(We were) thinking maybe if he’s moving out of the Horne Lake area then we’ll be able to cut him off at the three points you can get out of that area,” Rivers said.
However that didn’t bring any results, so Rivers said they brought in Civil Air Search and Rescue as well as Nanaimo, Ladysmith and Cowichan search and rescues.
“It was not too long before we had more than 80 people in the field,” said Rivers, adding it was then they found vehicle tracks going underneath the power lines from Cook Creek.
Rivers said that’s when trip plans come in handy.
“If you say you’re going to Horne Lake and instead you were going to go to Cook Creek, make sure you let somebody know,” he said.
Rivers said they managed to locate Baartman’s truck, but the 87-year-old wasn’t there. Rivers said they then brought all the teams to where the vehicle was located.
“We didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket, so we had just a couple teams on the other side of the power lines, just in case he was up there,” said Rivers.
Rivers said they found Baartman up near the creek on the north side of the power lines and Baartman was “quite cold, not moving much, right down to the ground, but still conscious.”
In total, Rivers said, the search took 26 hours.
“I know that, because I was there for 24 of them — and the other two at work.”
Rivers said he and Nash received the award on behalf of the Arrowsmith Search and Rescue.
“One of the things that I always push — it was not just an Arrowsmith Search and Rescue deal. We had every search and rescue team from around in there. We had everybody we could. It was a really big joint effort of everybody working together,” he said.
“I always wish that I could say, ‘Hey, it’s not just us. There’s a huge team at Arrowsmith, but there’s a huge team on the Island, too, that was out there doing that.’”
— With files from Island District RCMP