Wednesday, May 22, 2024
May 22, 2024

Hang glider rescued from Mt. Bruce 

A 62-year-old hang glider who crashed on the southeast face of Salt Spring Island’s highest peak Monday has been rescued, ending an hours-long ordeal where the injured adventurer found himself hanging 60 feet in the air, upside-down. 

Shortly after launching from a platform near the top of 709-metre-high Mount Bruce, friends watched the experienced glider suddenly veer off to the right and into several trees, snagging branches and ending up “partially restrained within his harness, upside-down,” according to Salt Spring Island Search and Rescue (SSISAR) search manager and paramedic Jason Grindler, who estimated the crash took place at about 1:30 in the afternoon Monday, Aug. 7. 

Inverted, suspended and stuck about 100 metres from the radio tower, the man deployed his emergency parachute — in case the branches holding the hang glider 60 to 70 feet above the ground gave way, Grindler said, hoping the chute’s lines might snag something on the way down. Friends called 911, and within just 45 minutes teams from Salt Spring Island Search and Rescue (SSISAR) and Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue (SSIFR) arrived at the remote scene, along with a two-person BC Ambulance crew and one suitably-specialized expert: arborist Michael Surman, who is also a former member of both SSISAR and SSIFR. 

“Tree rescue is very specialized, and can be quite hazardous,” said Grindler. “Mike is a fantastic arborist who knew the operation, so we all worked very well together.” 

The steepness of the terrain required setting up multiple safety ropes for rescuers and equipment; as teams approached the tree, Grindler said there was significant concern about potential trauma from the extended time the man spent inverted — and with his harness webbing restricting blood flow. Once Surman climbed up the tree and was able to reach the man’s harness and further secure him, he was able to transfer some of his weight onto the tree and relieve that pressure. 

“He was in a lot better shape than we expected, which was fantastic to see,” said Grindler, who had joined Surman at the tree to render medical aid as the glider pilot was lowered to the ground in a “bumblebee suit” — a yellow-and-black harness rated for rescue work.  

Rescuers then loaded the man into a basket stretcher and began the long process of bringing him up the steep slope, monitoring him along the way to ensure his condition didn’t worsen. 

“We had four rescuers on rope, with a double rope system,” said Grindler. “With the nature of the space available, it was a slow haul up.” 

At around 6 p.m., and near the top, the man was able to walk with assistance to the waiting ambulance, Grindler said, where he was evaluated further and “released” into the care of his friends — who included some off-duty nurses willing to monitor for further symptoms, he added. 

“Considering the challenging technical nature of the whole rescue, things went quite smoothly,” said Grindler. “It shows how valuable the joint training with Salt Spring Fire Rescue has been — it really shone through in how well we were able to all work together. A great job done all around.” 

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