Injured hiker rescued off Anvil Trail

  • Jun. 18, 2015 5:00 p.m.

May 25 will forever be a day that two tourists from California will never forget. Along with their dream vacation to Haida Gwaii, an unfortunate injury allowed the retired couple to experience the true spirit of the islanders.  Gary and Elena Summers had been vacationing on Haida Gwaii for almost a week when they decided to take a hike up Anvil Trail in Tlell. It’s usually a moderate hike, but due to lack of upkeep a large amount of forest debris on the path made the trek considerably more difficult.”Shortly after starting out, it became clear that the trail was very much like and obstacle course, requiring us to crawl under, over and detour around a variety of fallen trees and branches,” Gary said by phone from his California home.About an hour into the rugged hike, Gary stepped on a log that gave out and sent him crashing to the ground, severely straining his knee and leaving him unable to stand.The couple were alone, with no cellular signal, and one kilometre from the trailhead.Elena made a makeshift brace from tree branches and her husband’s over shirt and then turned back down the trail. She eventually made her way to the Crow’s Nest and started phoning for help. Another couple, also on vacation, overheard Elena relay the story to emergency responders and took it upon themselves to set out with blankets, water and snacks to keep Gary company until help arrived. “Their early arrival with assistance and reassuring words was extremely comforting,” Gary said.When Chris Ashurst of Archipelago Search and Rescue received the call he mobilized his team of eight and initiated the rescue mission. “Most search and rescues off trails [consists of] finding lost hikers. This was a rare call, to actually have to pull an injured person off a trail,” Mr. Ashurst said. An army of 19 volunteers and officials arrived on scene shortly after the call was placed. B.C. Ambulance and B.C. Parks, along with Tlell Firefighters, RCMP, Ministry of Lands and Forests and a few loyal locals all assisted in the efforts to get Gary off the trail safely. Coincidentally, one member of the rescue team, Alan Lore, had a date to take the couple kayaking the next day.”Talk about a small community,” Gary said. B.C. Ambulance paramedics reached Gary about two hours after his injury. Once they stabilized him and took his vitals, Mr. Ashurst then came on scene with his team to assist in the patient’s extraction. Everyone took turns, six at a time, gripping the stretcher and passing the human cargo over and under logs, around boggy patches. “They worked like a precision machine, with Chris calling out the names of different maneuvers,” Gary said.After just four and a half hours after the fall, the rescue teams and volunteers delivered Gary to the awaiting ambulance. “More hands make for light work,” Mr. Ashurst said, referring to how quickly Mr. Summers was rescued off the trail.Gary was transported to Queen Charlotte Island General Hospital, where he said he received a medical examination and X-rays, followed by a straight leg plaster cast and crutches for travel.After one ferry and three airports, the vacationing couple are now at home in Walnut Creek, California.Despite the incident, the Gary said he thoroughly enjoyed his visit to Haida Gwaii. Even with a major injury and the possibility of upcoming knee surgery, he and his wife were very impressed by the kindness and compassion of the locals of Haida Gwaii who had helped him in his time of need.The Tlell Watershed Society is in charge of the maintenance of the Anvil trail. An AGM is being held later in the month, during which a representative said they plan to discuss needed upkeep of the trails.

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