Five local snowmobilers who rescued a man buried underneath an avalanche were recognized for their acts of bravery last week.
Roger Fehr, Kelly Gingles, Regan Kardas, Mitchell Peters and Brian Ward were all given honorary testimonial certificates from the Royal Canadian Humane Association (RCHA) on Oct. 26.
The five Terracites were among the 19 British Columbians recognized by the association that day. They were joined by Terrace volunteer firefighter James Giles, who saved a family of three from a burning building in 2016, and Erik Brown, the Canadian cave diver involved in the Thailand rescue of a junior football team last July.
“It was amazing, it was a huge honour. We’re just so grateful that our story had a happy ending,” Fehr says.
A lone snowmobiler had triggered an avalanche last March while climbing into an area known as “the chute” on South Douglas Mountain, just north of Terrace. Fehr, Gingles and Kardas were out exploring the backcountry when they came across Peters and Ward, who had stopped just below where the avalanche hit.
The pair had seen the snowmobiler travel up the mountain but noticed there were no tracks coming out of the slide of debris.
|The location where the group of five located the buried snowmobiler along the “the chute” of South Douglas Mountain, north of Terrace. (Kelly Gingles contributed photo)|
Luckily Gingles, Fehr and Kardas had completed a companion rescue course for snowmobilers. When they realized the individual’s emergency transceiver was turned off, they started randomly probing the deposit area with collapsible poles to see if they could locate him.
“Rallying that rescue as quickly as possible in the total chaos that is a rescue scenario is the most important thing. Your friends are literally your lifeline there… by the time you call outside help, it’s too late,” says Fehr.
About ten seconds after they started searching, Fehr says he remembers Kardas calling out that he had hit something. After a few more probes, they found the man buried almost two metres down.
“The amount of time was amazing — he was literally standing directly above him,” Fehr says.
Together they dug him out, got him moving and helped him regain his breathing. Once he had recovered, they helped dig out his snowmobile, made a few quick repairs and made sure he could ride safely back down the mountain.
Though the nominees had saved over 20 lives between them, Fehr says humility was the overwhelming theme of the day.
“Everyone that was presented with some sort of recognition seemed very modest and humble about it. [It’s] amazing to be included in a cohort like that.”
Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin was scheduled to present the awards, but couldn’t make it after a family emergency. West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater was there to present the awards on her behalf.