Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hiker Survives Fall From Bridge on West Coast Trail

This Sunday, a couple from Edmonton had their West Coast Trail hike end shortly after it began. The Times Colonist reports that Kristie Wenger and her boyfriend, Jonah Krauskopf, accidentally left the main trail and started following an old, out of use section of trail. Wenger attempted to cross a broken, slippery log bridge, but fell when she turned around to look at Krauskopf. The fall took her 25 feet down to the creek bed, but miracuously she wasn't seriously injured.

Luckily, as they were less than 2km from the trail head, Krauskopf was able to protect Wenger from the steady rain with a sleeping bag and tarp, then head for help. At the shore of the San Juan River, he was able to wave to a group of people on the other shore. One of the group, Victoria firefighter Cody Gidney, took charge and grabbed a rope, first aid kit, and radio from the Park Wardens. With two other men, he canoed across the river, then hiked the rough trail in flipflops to Wenger.

Gidney was able to assertain that although Wenger's injuries weren't overly serious, she would need to be airlifted off the trail. Two wardens arrived and helped Gidney prepare the site for the evacuation. Roughly 5 hours after the fall, a Cormorant helicopter from CFB Comox arrived and performed a successful evacuation.

So what did we learn from this?
It's hard to determine whether this mishap was caused by poor trail marking, careless hiking, inexperience, or just plain bad luck. We've all taken a wrong turn on a trail before, which in itself is a scary experience. Maps and compasses wouldn't have helped them avoid this, only experience.

Krauskopf did everything right after the fall, from protecting Wenger from the elements to quickly heading off for help. Some things I would add that he may or may not have done:
  • Leave a note with the victim indicating which way you went for help, what time, and what injuries there may be. The victim may lose conscoiusness or otherwise not be able to communicate with a would-be rescuer.
  • Remove all scented and food items from the hiker and hang from a tree. A bear or cougar may sense the defenselessness of the victim.
  • Indicate on your map where the incident took place, so you can show rescuers. A digital photo may even help them find an obscure area in case you aren't able to return with the rescue team. Tie some gear around a tree where you left the main trail, and spread out your tent or tarp at the rescue site to aid helicopters or boats. Give them the colour and description of the gear.
Once again, luck and good decision making helped this incident to have a happy ending. Thank you to Cody Gidney for going above and beyond the call of duty.

(note: the above photo isn't the area where they fell, but illustrates the disrepair some areas of the trail can be in.)

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