Central Saanich rescue of skydiving tandem in trees

Central Saanich rescue of skydiving tandem in trees

Emergency crews had to look way up for their difficult assignment Saturday afternoon.

Tandem skydivers had been blown off-course and dangled in the trees while waiting to be rescued in a heavily wooded area on Mount Newton.

“It’s very difficult when people land in trees and they don’t know where they are,” said Central Saanich Fire Chief Chris Vrabel.

“So with various resources, dispatch centres sharing information amongst the agencies, we were able to locate them.”

Vrabel added, “we discovered they were 100 feet up the trees.”

A multi-agency response of fire and search and rescue were on the scene after the call came around 2:30, along with ambulance and police. An arborist was brought in and set to put 20 years of aerial rescue training to the test.

“First time I’ve ever done it,” said Nathan Franklyn of Bartlett Tree Experts.

“I mean we’ve done a lot of training, you know, of course, but this is the first time it was actually a real event.”

“Very challenging when you’re dealing with nature and trees,” said Chief Vrabel.

“These were thin trees they were in, not very strong, so there was a risk of them breaking.”

Once up the tree, Franklyn got his first glimpse at the pair’s condition.

“One guy seemed to be in a lot of pain,” said Franklyn.

“The other guy, the guy who is the main parachuter, he was helpful at keeping the other guy calm.”

“He was pretty scratched up, beat up,” said Capital City Skydivers Owner Bob Verret.

“He was trapped by the thigh and by the knee, by the foot in the tree.”

Verret added, “at one point, he was upside down.”

Verret was on the ground watching the ordeal for one of his instructors and customers.

Capital City Skydiving will conduct their own investigation to help prevent this from happening again.

He says the instructor handled the situation the right way.

“Knowing that he shouldn’t be moving, telling the passenger not to move,” said Verret.

“Just from that height if the pressure had got dislodged from the top of the trees, then it was catastrophic.”

After some work to untie the chute, the pair were slowly lowered, touching the ground safely for the first time in over 2 hours.

However, they did not leave unscathed.

“My understanding from BCHS is there was one fracture and minor abrasions on both of them,” said Chief Vrabel.

“One of the people was able to walk out on their own and the other was carried out on a basket stretcher.”

The rescue being over is as much a relief for the rescue team.

“Yeah, it was an experience so I won’t forget,” added Franklyn.

The experience likely won’t be forgotten either by the two men who were saved.

Andy NealAndy Neal

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