One man is lucky to have escaped with his life yesterday at Elk Falls.
Just after 4 p.m. Tuesday (April 5) afternoon, Campbell River Fire Rescue was called to the falls to respond to a man with a “lower leg injury,” Capt. Reid Wharton said as he oversaw the rescue from one of the lookout points above the falls.
When they arrived on scene, they found the man lying prone on the rocks just a few metres from edge of the raging water, less than 20 metres from the falls themselves.
“The crew went down there with BCAS (BC Ambulance Service) and they’re doing some first aid on him, and then, as you can see, they’re going to put him in the basket stretcher and pull him up with the rope,” Wharton continues. “It’s called a low-angle rescue.”
They managed to retrieve the man safely, but the incident has prompted yet another warning about the dangers of not abiding by safety signage in the area.
Wharton expects the man slipped on the wet rocks and injured his leg badly enough that he could not get back up. But the situation could have ended much more tragically would it have happened just a few more feet closer to the rushing water.
“People don’t realize how slippery those rocks can be,” Wharton says. “There are signs all over the place down there telling people to please not go down on the rocks, and those signs are there for a reason.”
Wharton was clearly frustrated by the need, once again, for rescuers to put themselves at this kind of risk clambering around on the rocks above the falls to rescue someone in this situation.
“There’s people down there all the time,” he said, exasperated. “You’d be surprised how many times we get called for a rescue down there. Or a body recovery.”
Wharton says he’s been part of at least five of such “body recoveries” in his time with the department.
“Hydro’s gone around and put up all kinds of signs. I really wish people would adhere to them,” Wharton says. “Rotary did such a great job with the suspension bridge and the lookouts have such a great view of the falls, you don’t have to go down there on those rocks. I don’t understand it. What? For a better picture?”
After the man was in the basket stretcher, the crew pulled him up to the security fence and transformed the basket stretcher into an 0ff-road-style unit to bring him back to town for further medical treatment.
“Once they get him up to the fence there,” Wharton says, “you know, the one with all the signs on it that say not to go past here? They’ve got basically a big wheel they attach to the basket stretcher itself to get him back to the vehicles and back to town.”
Wharton says there were around 10 personnel working to get the man out of his situation, plus two BCAS attendants.