A Cowichan Valley man is alive and recovering from critical injuries Monday night, thanks to the quick action of five campers who worked for hours to save his life.

The campers were staying in Cowichan River Provincial Park Sunday morning when they heard the man’s calls for help.

“Some blood on his face and obviously in a lot of distress. We jumped in the river swam across and when we got there we just saw that he needed a lot of medical attention,” said Sandy Robertson, one of the five.

They called 911 and started performing first aid.

The man had a severed artery and serious injuries to his ankle and head. BC Ambulance paramedics arrived but were unable to get to the patient because of the river.

“We had a fantastic nurse who was first on the scene. The ambulance and search and rescue were giving advice and support from the other side of the river sending across supplies,” said Robertson.

The campers said there were signs the man had fallen from the trail at the top of the cliff.

“His dog was at the top of the cliff and was barking so we figured he had fallen down and it sounded like at some point he got stung by a bee or a wasp…He’s not sure what happened after that but it was something that happened that sent him down the cliff,” said Robertson.

After nearly three hours, Cowichan Search and Rescue brought paramedics across to him. They then carried him to a shallow spot on the river where they brought him across to a waiting ATV. He was then transferred to an ambulance that took him to an air ambulance. He was airlifted to Victoria. It all took close to four hours.

“I don’t think we’ve had one quite this involved. Most of the injuries that we get are more accessible than this one and because his injuries were quite severe, it took a little longer to make sure he was stable,” said Tina Phillips, search manager of Cowichan Search and Rescue.

“It was eye-opening. It was frightening. It was quite the experience,” said Robertson.

Those who helped say they just hope the Cowichan man is able to make a full recovery.

Cowichan Search and Rescue says this is an example of why it’s best to hike with someone if you’re exploring the great outdoors.

Kendall Hanson