Hat Pass Avalanche

Lions Bay Search and Rescue would like to convey our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Ryoji Fujita, who was found deceased after a 3 day multi agency SAR operation led by Lions Bay SAR with additional volunteers from North Shore Rescue, Squamish SAR, Whistler SAR and Coquitlam SAR, as well as CARDA avalanche dog handlers from Whistler and the RCMP.

Hat Mountain avalanche search for Ryoji Fujita with Lions Bay Search and Rescue.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Christopher Morris/Lions Bay Search & Rescue
Photos may only be used in relation to this search and rescue operation, no usage of any other kind, without prior permission.

Mr. Fujita was snowshoeing on the Howe Sound Crest trail between Mt Brunswick and Hat Mountain in the Lions Bay Area, and was caught up and buried by a Class 2 avalanche. He was well equipped and had significant mountain knowledge. He was travelling alone, and was in an area that experienced a somewhat unusual windslab formation—a compacted accumulation of snow that was deposited by an extreme wind event in the days before his hike—and was likely a contributing factor to the avalanche.

Hat Mountain avalanche search for Ryoji Fujita with Lions Bay Search and Rescue.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Christopher Morris/Lions Bay Search & Rescue
Photos may only be used in relation to this search and rescue operation, no usage of any other kind, without prior permission.

Assisting greatly with the recovery operation was the use of a helicopter mounted RECCO Detector, which was able to help pinpoint his location in the avalanche debris. As far as we are aware, this is the first time in Canada that this device has been used to locate a subject on a SAR operation of this type, and may help to improve the effectiveness of future SAR operations.

Hat Mountain avalanche search for Ryoji Fujita with Lions Bay Search and Rescue.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Christopher Morris/Lions Bay Search & Rescue
Photos may only be used in relation to this search and rescue operation, no usage of any other kind, without prior permission.

Mount Harvey Tragedy

April 11, 2017

This past weekend, April 8th and 9th 2017 Lions Bay Search and Rescue (LBSAR) conducted our largest response and recovery in the history of the team. Our condolences to the families and friends of the five snowshoers who plummeted to their deaths from the summit of Mount Harvey when a ridge cornice gave way. The five fell to the Northwest side of the mountain falling 500m where they were then consumed by a large avalanche that travelled down the ramp to the valley bottom.

Harvey incident site

Harvey incident site 2

LBSAR is most grateful to the immediate response by nine other teams when called. By Sunday morning avalanche qualified field volunteer SAR response teams from Pemberton to Chilliwack, CARDA and RCMP dog teams, Professional Canadian Avalanche Industry Resources, RCMP and Coroner all descended upon the School field staging area. In total over 70 field ready personnel were at the staging area.

Harvey North Face

LBSAR is especially thankful to the amazing services provided by Village ESS in keeping searchers fed and providing a reception area for victim services and heartbroken families. The Salvation Army crews scrambled to attend the scene and provide nourishment to weary and hungry returning field crews. Our Mayor Karl Buhr and Councillor Fred Bain were continuously available to liaison between Village resources. Numerous Village residents stopped by to drop off fresh cookies, energy bars, best wishes and offers of help for the ongoing operation. In excess, of 100 volunteers were involved in this tragic event.

Harvey briefing

Sunday the weather cooperated and the remaining snow was deemed stable enough to allow initial search efforts to commence. As the subjects were not wearing avalanche transceivers, the early use of avalanche dogs allowed for all five subjects to be recovered- truly a remarkable feat given the size of the avalanche. At the height of the operation 42 field members were combing the avalanche debris with dogs and probes. All members were transported in and out via helicopter for searcher safety avoiding several other possible avalanche paths if crews approached via ground routes.
Again, we thank all of those that assisted in this difficult situation and to Village Residents for their patience and understanding.

Summary of calls in summer 2015

Due to an exceptionally high call volume, LBSAR has listed a summary of incidents for the summer of 2015.

17 June Boat access recovery
20 June Rescuers hiked in
21 June Rescuers hiked in
25 June Rescuers hiked in
28 June Rescuers hiked in
15 July Helicopter access rescue
25 July Helicopter long line rescue (mutual aid from North Shore Rescue HETS)
3 Aug Vehicle, subject found 10 minutes from road
3-4 Aug Rescuers hiked in, Helicopter used for evacuation
6 Aug Helicopter access rescue
13 Aug Helicopter access rescue
15 Aug Mutual Aid supporting North Shore Rescue at Mt. Seymour, Rescuers hiked in
21 Aug Helicopter long line rescue (mutual aid North Shore Rescue HETS)
5 Sept Helicopter long line rescue (mutual aid from North Shore Rescue HETS)
8 Sept Rescuers hiked in
20-21 Sept Searchers hiked in

Injured hiker rescued from St Mark’s

August 21, 2015 – Around 15:00 hours Lions Bay SAR was activated by the British Columbia Ambulance Service. A call had been placed to 911 for a hiker on the Howe Sound Crest Trail who had taken a fall and injured their leg to the point of not being able to bear any weight on it.

Three teams were readied for the response. One responded to Cypress Bowl in order to access the subject over land. Another team was dispatched to the airport to initiate a Rapid Air Response, the third team was staged at Lions Bay to provide logistical support.

After a quick survey by the RAR team from the air, it was deemed that a long line rescue would be needed due to the thick trees in the area around the subject. North Shore Rescue were called in for mutual aid in order to perform the long line rescue.

The subjects was evacuated shortly before 17:00 to Cypress Bowl, where a waiting ambulance brought them to the hospital.

Hikers rescued from Thomas peak area

August 13 2015 – 4 hikers were recovered from the Howe Sound Crest trail on Thursday afternoon. The hikers had altered their plan after following the wrong trail earlier in the day. This change put them on the Howe Sound Crest Trail. They found themselves on the exposed rock of Thomas Peak and made the decision to call for help when they were unable to proceed safely.

Two calls on BC Day

Monday, August 3 2015. Lions Bay Search and Rescue volunteers were activated around 9pm on August 3rd for two separate incidents. The first incident involved a group of 4 hikers who were on the ridge between the Lions and Mount Unnecessary. Two members of the hiking party suffered from a lower leg injury. Two teams were sent to aid the group. The first traveled light and fast, the second carried medical equipment. The hikers and the rescuers were evacuated by helicopter early on Tuesday morning.

A second call was received within minutes of the first call for a hiker who had become separated from their hiking party in the Mount Brunswick area. The lost hiker was located without much difficulty and uninjured.

Lower leg injury on the Lions trail

July 25 2015 – Lions Bay SAR was activated by BC Ambulance Service to respond to a call for a hiker who had injured his lower let and was not able to continue hiking. It was quickly decided that a long line rescue would be the best method to remove the subject. One Lions Bay SAR member was able to board the helicopter in North Vancouver with the North Shore Rescue HETS (long line rescue). After a quick assessment the subject was packaged and airlifted out to a waiting ambulance in Lions Bay. A ground team responded to the subject location too. The subject created a video of the event.

Evacuation of 2 off-trail hikers from Harvey drainage, and subsequent call on St Marks

On May 8th 2015 two hikers called 911 asking for help. The pair had lost the trail while coming down from the Lions. The pair relayed that they were stuck at the top of a large waterfall and unable to progress. Lions Bay SAR dispatched a team to the trail head, while concurrently contacting North Shore Rescue to ask for HETS (helicopter long line) mutual aid support. The pair were safely evacuated just before sunset.

A second call for a distressed hiker on St. Marks peak developed just minutes after the completion of the first. Because the HETS team was ready to go the hikers on St. Marks were also evacuated by helicopter long line, in an operation that was a race against approaching darkness.

Lonetree Creek Incident

On Monday December 22nd 2014, around 10:30am Lions Bay Search and Rescue responded to the Lonetree Creek hiking trail in the Lions Bay area to assist with a reportedly critically injured child after rockfall in the Lonetree Creek drainage.

Lions Bay Search and Rescue initial response team members deployed to the forward staging area of the Unnecessary/Lonetree Creek trail junction. Two LBSAR members, one an advanced care paramedic with advanced wilderness medical equipment, proceeded on foot to respond to the injured subject. Portions of the large hiking group who were with the subject at the time of injury, including three nurses, were encountered hiking out as LBSAR members made the 30 minute hike into the incident site.

Lions Bay Fire Rescue volunteer members had also responded and carried an impressive amount of rescue equipment into the area including a clamshell, basket stretcher, oxygen equipment, an AED and medical kit. When LBSAR members reached the subject circa 11:45am, the subject was found to have significant traumatic injury to the abdominal, pelvic and upper thigh regions. LB Fire Rescue personnel had taken over resuscitation efforts from the members of the hiking party and LBSAR further assisted their efforts on scene.

Concurrently, a LBSAR emergency trauma physician member was staged at the Lions Bay school field and subsequently inserted by a NSR helicopter long line (aka HETS) member into the incident site at around 1200hrs.

Once on scene LBSAR, LB Fire Rescue and NSR HETS members worked together in the attempt to resuscitate the subject in the steep creek drainage.

Despite significant effort and after advanced interventional medical/surgical procedures were performed in the field, the fatally injured child was unable to be resuscitated.

The subject was packaged and removed from the unstable creek bed by LBSAR & NSR HETS members to the Lions Bay school field where RCMP and BCAS representatives were present to receive the patient.

Our thoughts and sincerest condolences go out to the family, along with all those involved in this tragic incident. Along with our gratitude to those who came out to support the rescue efforts from both within the Lions Bay and extended Sea to Sky communities.

Hiking Pair Rescued From Remote Section Of The Howe Sound Crest Trail

At around 22:30 on Thursday August 15th the Lions Bay Search and Rescue team was activated by Squamish RCMP for a 911 call from hikers who had lost two members of their party.

The informants reported that they had last seen their 2 companions near the foot of the West Lion. The group was hiking the Howe Sound Crest Trail from Cyrpess Bowl northward. The group was to meet at the shelter in Magnesia meadows where they would spend the night. The members of the group who did reach the cabin became worried when by 22:00 their two companions had not reached the shelter. The 911 call was placed to the RCMP, the team was mobilised to meet at the SAR base.

The RCMP dispatched Air1, a helicopter equipped with infrared cameras, to support the team in the search. Air1 spotted the pair on a steep section of the trail between Hanging Lake and Harvey Pass. Because of their location, they were outside of cellular phone reception. The pair were located not far from the trail; they were waving their arms and flashing their lights in the S-O-S pattern to Air1.

With the missing pair’s location firmly established, a ground team hiked to them. Around 5AM the SAR team members along with the subjects were flown to the Lions Bay School field, safe and sound.

Another job well done by the men and women of the Lions Bay Search and Rescue team, and thanks to RCMP Air1 for helping speed up the operation.