Louise Baxter in a photo shared while she was missing last summer from Jumbo pass. File photo

B.C. woman lost for three days on trail urges for search and rescue funding

East Kootenay volunteers searched 3 days last summer for Louise Baxter

In her first interview after spending three days lost on Jumbo Pass with her poodle Maverick, Louise Baxter praised the throngs of BC Search and Rescue volunteers who dropped everything in their personal and professional lives last August to find her and return her safely to her family.

“I was by myself not understanding all that was going on for me,” she said, adding that she remains awed by the scale of the search effort and the number of people who raced to help.

The mission involved more than 35 volunteers from eight search teams, three RCMP detachments, three helicopters, four search dogs and a drone.

The search to find Ms. Baxter occurred while BC’s Search and Rescue teams were funded through a three-year arrangement with the provincial government that provided the Columbia Valley Search and Rescue (CVSAR) with $80,000 annually. CVSAR search manager Steve Talsma said the provincial funding is running out, with the tap shutting off at the end of March.

He said the Valley’s Search and Rescue operation is “in an OK position to get through this year” but he is concerned about the future. A typical call takes CVSAR a few hours and runs from $3,000 to $5,000, but longer and more complex missions can run up to $100,000, he said. CVSAR also has costs to train volunteers and maintain equipment to allow volunteers to be effective in their roles.

READ MORE: Concerns rise as B.C. search and rescue funding set to expire

“We’ve had a good three-year run, and now we’re going to have some work ahead of us,” he said.

Both he and Ms. Baxter hope to see the provincial funding resuscitated.

“How do I feel about it?” Ms. Baxter asked. “At any moment it could be someone that you know that needs (to be rescued), especially in the kind of area that we live.”

Ms. Baxter knows how quickly fates can shift for those out enjoying the mountains.

She had only intended to leave her hiking group briefly to take Maverick to a lookout point. Then the weather changed, obscuring the path she had travelled.

“I was convinced I knew how to get back to the cabin, and so I was trying to find my way back there. But I was already totally lost. I was on the wrong side, the opposite side, of the mountain on the West Kootenay side, which I had no idea,” she said. “At first it was like ‘I can’t believe I got myself lost’ and then it was terrifying.”

To calm down, she prayed and repeated a mantra she learned in her yoga class as the days turned into nights and the nights turned back into days.

Hope also came from above when helicopters circled overhead, when she ended up on a road and when a vehicle rumbling in the distance drew close before the occupants welcomed her inside.

Ms. Baxter travelled from Cranbrook to share her appreciation in person at the Columbia Valley Search and Rescue annual general meeting on Wednesday, February 27th.

“I just wanted to really thank everyone for what you do,” she told the volunteers, adding that she is deeply grateful to everyone who gave up three days of their lives to help her keep hers.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

EDITORIAL: How Killer Bunnies helped save my life

“No matter what it is you’re into, it’s important to keep our minds working,” editor Adam Louis writes.

LETTER: Take only what you need

Anne White of Harrison comments on community response to COVID-19.

WATCH: Agassiz-Harrison celebrates National Puppy Day

Facebook followers posted 44 pictures of their furry friends

LETTER: The importance of local grocers

C. and B. Lang Randall reply to an ALR-related letter

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

No plans to call in military right now to enforce COVID-19 quarantine: Trudeau

Trudeau unveils $7.5M for Kids Help Phone, $9M for vulnerable seniors amid COVID-19

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

‘There is community’: B.C. councillor welcomes new baby into world amid COVID-19 pandemic

‘I realize there’s much more than fear and worry… there is hope, there is new life’: Jason Lum

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Blue ribbons popping up along streets in Abbotsford in praise of B.C. healthcare workers

Healthcare worker’s family starts local trend of morale support

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

Most Read