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Teamwork helps with rescue of injured Salmon Arm sledder from Hunters Range

Vernon Search and Rescue manager praises group for doing everything right
Vernon Search and Rescue members carefully load Michael Wilkinson, injured in a snowmobiling accident on Hunters Range, into their truck to deliver him to ambulance personnel waiting for him in the Ashton Creek parking lot at midnight on Sunday, Dec. 12. (Kari Wilkinson photo)

Teamwork, preparedness and good communication were factors in getting a Salmon Arm area man injured in a snowmobile accident off Hunters Range and to hospital in Vernon.

On Saturday, Gary and son Michael Wilkinson were snowmobiling with friends in the Hunters Range snowmobile area southwest of Sicamous. Around 3:15 p.m., while sledding in a bowl, Michael was T-boned by one of his fellow sledders, his leg broken as a result.

Gary then used his inReach satellite communication system to call for help.

Within five minutes of sending out that call, Gary’s spouse Kari Wilkinson, who was with Michael’s fiancee Maddy Steventon, were contacted by a person from a Texas call centre who explained someone in the group of sledders had a broken leg, they were in a bowl on Hunters Range, and they were in need of help.

Kari said it took about an hour for one of the sledders to reach a location where there was cell coverage. It was then she and Steventon were informed Michael had been injured, and a helicopter was not being sent.

Instead, Vernon Search and Rescue deployed a ground crew of six.

At the same time, Gary travelled to the Gordon Sydney cabin on Hunters Range to ask for help.

“There happened to be a paramedic there from Alberta who had additional emergency equipment in his sled as well as painkillers,” said Kari.

Back in the bowl, the sledders got a fire going, they covered Michael in emergency heat blankets and were able to immobilize his leg with an abbey shovel and zap straps. Kari said he was given the painkillers as we was going into shock.

With the sun going down, Kari said the group of sledders decided it best to transport Michael to the Gordon Sydney cabin, where they would wait for search and rescue.

The rescue team, which included a doctor, arrived at the cabin around 9 p.m. Search manager Trevor Honigman said the team packaged Michael in a stretcher in a snowmobile toboggan for the trip down hill.

“There’s not a lot of snow on the mountains right now so it made it very uncomfortable for him,” said Honigman.

Wilkinson said the trip down took about three hours.

“Once they got close enough to that end of Hunters Range, search and rescue was able to send their truck up the logging road to meet them and bring them the rest of the way down,” said Kari, adding Michael was met in the Ashton Creek parking lot at midnight by paramedics who transported him to hospital in Vernon.

Still tired from the weekend’s excitement, Kari said Michael is sore, and requiring surgery, but is otherwise OK. In a Facebook post, she sent thanks out to everyone who assisted in getting her stepson off the hill.

“The entire experience, although stressful, was handled exceptionally well,” wrote Kari, also sharing a rave for the response and communication efforts.

“Between the RCMP, Vernon Search and Rescue, the InReach communication centre, it was constant, all night long, right to three in the morning when Maddy got called to pick up Michael from the Vernon hospital…,” said Kari.

Honigman credited Michael and all the sledders who helped him for working together as a team.

“They communicated with emergency personnel really well, they were able to give locations and they had coms up there, so everything went as smoothly as we could expect,” said Honigman. “They were prepared, which is really nice.”

Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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