SAR crews carry injured hiker on stretcher for 4 hours off Juan de Fuca Marine Trail

SAR crews carry injured hiker on stretcher for 4 hours off Juan de Fuca Marine Trail
Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue/Facebook
Juan de Fuca and Metchosin search and rescue crews carried an injured hiker on a stretcher for four hours on May 8.

Search and rescue crews carried a hiker on a stretcher for four hours on Wednesday after she slipped and injured herself while hiking the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.

Victoria Clarke, coordinator and search manager with Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue, says the call came in around 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

“The trail itself is so muddy and slippery and so many tree roots, and she tripped and slipped,” Clarke said in a phone interview. “She had a lower leg injury and we knew where she was. We were able to access her, stabilize her and then transport her to an ambulance waiting on Highway 14.”

Clarke says 13 members of the Juan de Fuca SAR team responded and there were also people from Metchosin Search and Rescue who helped out.

While carrying someone for four hours on a stretcher may sound extraordinary, Clarke says this is the “meat and potatoes of our team, that’s the work we do.”

“The Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is not that accessible in many ways and a stretcher carry is the only way to get an injured person out,” Clarke said.

Sometimes it is possible and faster to bring an injured person to the water and have the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue transport them by boat, or on occasion a helicopter extraction has been required, but Clarke says most of the rescues are extracted by stretcher.

Transporting the hiker took four hours, but Clarke says she didn’t get home until 5 a.m., 12 hours after the initial call was received.

“We’ve gotta hike in, we send in an initial response team with a medic to locate them and stabilize them and then report back to the rest of the team,” Clarke said. “Other team members come down bringing the required equipment, which in this case was a stretcher. So yeah, it does it does take a while for that to happen.”

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Clarke says due to its proximity to Victoria, she thinks some people underestimate how challenging the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail is, but it’s important to be adequately prepared.

“People need to do the research before undertaking a hike on that trail,” she said.

In 2022, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail was tied for second place with the Howe Sound Crest trail for the hiking trails around B.C. with the most search and rescue call outs.

READ PREVIOUS: Two Island trails make top 10 list requiring most SAR responses

In order to help people prepare to hike the trail, the BC Search and Rescue Association put together a safety video with tips specific to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. Clarke says she always recommends people check out the video before heading out.

“Check the weather, make sure you’re going with proper footwear, make sure that you are taking some kind of device, that mapping device, communication device. Cell phones are working really well up there right now,” she said.

In 2023, Clarke says the JDF SAR spent over 12,000 hours on call and it is expected that 2024 will be just as busy.

While this was a typical call out for the group, Clarke says it highlights the important work that search and rescue crews do around the province.

“There’s 78 groups in the province and they’re doing their work relatively quietly,” Clarke said.

“We get these call outs, we’re tasked by the RCMP or by BC Ambulance, but we’re out there filling another emergency response area, right, that others are not doing. And so anytime I get a chance to shout out search and rescue groups and people I do because it’s a valuable service that we’re providing.”

Watch the BCSARA video on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail below:

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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