Big Find, Big Rescue – Using Technology to Support GSAR



On Wednesday March 18 North Shore Rescue was activated by both the North Vancouver RCMP and the West Vancouver Police for two unrelated missing persons files. NSR, police, RCMP air services and Talon Helicopters were able to scour likely areas for both based on initial information from family and friends.

After an extensive search of the Capilano River area by land and air, the West Vancouver file found its major break yesterday when the subject was alerted that he was being sought by concerned searchers by the extensive social media and news media coverage of the search. This directly resulted in him contacting family and being safely reunited (WVPD Post). As anyone who reads this blog is likely aware, NSR was one of the first SAR teams in the country to use social media extensively on SAR calls. We continue that tradition and thank each and every one of you for sharing, and for being our community searchers when needed! You have proven time and time again how effective social media and our news media partners can be in these time sensitive calls.

The North Vancouver file was slightly more difficult for us, as we were working with limited initial information circumstantially placing the subject in the Braemar & Dempsey area of North Vancouver. Entering the second operational period on Thursday morning, NSR members were reactivated. Being a workday, NSR members had to take time off work and get shifts covered.

Upon further investigation by the North Vancouver RCMP & North Shore Rescue with the cellular provider, we were able to get enough data to plot a search area using polygons in Google Earth Pro. Using the raw data from the provider, including cellphone pings, their location accuracy & text messages prior to the phone going dead, we were able to develop a narrowed search area. In fact, using particular cellular information retrieved through our investigation, we were able to narrow the search field substantially. This combined effort by RCMP and NSR ultimately resulted in the subject being located alive by NSR ground teams in the mid-afternoon.


The subject had spent 36 hours in the cold near a creek and was tended to by an NSR/BCAS paramedic on scene and was evacuated via helicopter longline by our helicopter rescue team and Talon Helicopters with their AS355 TwinStar. The location posed some challenges for the helicopter extraction. Tall timber and bad light made it a challenging operation for Talon Helicopters pilot Jarrett Lunn. Despite the difficult conditions, he was rock steady on the controls and able to precisely insert and extract our rescue technician under radio control. True professionalism and amazing skill from our partners at Talon. The subject was subsequently transfered to BCAS paramedics for transport to hospital.

The North Shore provides a unique situation of high call volume, ease of access by a large population base to mountain terrain, and variable cellular coverage. These calls were an excellent example of how the use of social media and cellular technology can integrate with SAR operations to assist us in engaging the public and in helping us to narrow down search locations. While some aspects of these technologies are more useful than others, it still comes down to teamwork between agencies and the assistance of our community to pull off these calls!

Amazing cooperation and strong effort from West Vancouver Police, North Vancouver RCMP, RCMP Air Services, Talon Helicopters, BC Ambulance, The News Media, and the North Shore Community!

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