Christina Zanchetta of Comox Valley Search and Rescue works her way down a cliff to the Englishman River just below Top Bridge during a rope and water rescue training session Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. — J.R. Rardon photo

Christina Zanchetta of Comox Valley Search and Rescue works her way down a cliff to the Englishman River just below Top Bridge during a rope and water rescue training session Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. — J.R. Rardon photo

Parksville SAR trainees learn the ropes

Joint exercise shares new safety techniques in rope rescue

A swimmer injured after striking a rock on a dive into the Englishman River was successfully rescued Sunday. Over and over again.

The “rescue” was part of a joint rope-and-water rescue training exercise hosted by Arrowsmith Search and Rescue Oct. 15, 2017, at Top Bridge Park in Parksville. The session drew 20 members from the Arrowsmith, Comox Valley and Nanaimo search and rescue chapters, featuring new rope and safety techniques introduced in a weekend seminar two weeks earlier.

“It’s a whole new system,” said Nick Rivers of Arrowsmith SAR. “We’re using more or less the same equipment, with a couple of new pieces, but it’s a different way of anchoring and handling the lines. It adds another level of safety.”

Rivers was one of six team leaders from Arrowsmith SAR who attended the Vancouver Island-wide workshop that introduced the system.

“The idea was each of us could take that information back and be the trainers for our own SAR members,” he said.

The workshop included theory sessions and flat-ground work with the rope anchoring and handling system, and progressed to working on slopes.

“It was big days, with a lot of work,” said Michael Addiscott, an Arrowsmith SAR team leader who also attended the workshop. “But it’s lives out on the line; that’s what it’s all about.”

Sunday’s training session was the first since the workshop, and allowed workshop attendees to share the new technique with other members of their respective chapters in a realistic rescue setting.

The rescue scenario was a swimmer or hiker who had been injured in a fall in the Englishman River, just downstream from Top Bridge. SAR members rappeled down a nearly vertical cliff face of about 12 metres to the rocks below, swam out to the “victim” with a back board and anchoring rope, and secured the patient before bringing him back for a hoist back up the cliff.

Additional training sessions will be held in the coming months to share the techniques with other SAR volunteers from the Arrowsmith, Comox Valley, Port Alberni and Nanaimo chapters, said Rivers.

A joint search and rescue team carries a “victim” as another member ascends a cliff face above the Englishman River during a rope and water rescue training session in Parksville Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. — J.R. Rardon photo

A joint search and rescue team carries a “victim” as another member ascends a cliff face above the Englishman River during a rope and water rescue training session in Parksville Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. — J.R. Rardon photo

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