On Monday afternoon on June 3, I, Karin (51), a paragliding pilot from Germany had an ungentle “landing” in a tree, leaving me hanging 100 ft above the ground. I was unharmed but unable to get the ground.
However, a spectacular and elaborate search and rescue operation was started by the Kent Harrison and Chilliwack rescue teams that brought me back home safely.
This is the story from my perspective:
The incident happened on the second to last day of a seven-week trip through Canada where I went skiing, hiking and paragliding together with my husband Hellmut.
After beautiful flights in Vernon, Kelowna, Kamloops and Vancouver Island we met some very friendly Canadian paragliding pilots at the Eagle Ranch in Mount Woodside.
They offered to show us the starting site at Bridal Falls and after a detailed briefing from the local pilots I started for my first flight in this area. Finding the conditions in the air quite rough and turbulent I tried to keep the flight short and headed for the landing site. Unfortunately, I lost too much height too rapidly and was not able to reach the landing site but crashed into the tree tops in the upper part of the “Bridal forest”. My paraglider got entangled in the tip of a huge fir tree and I ended up hanging 100 ft above the ground with no means to free myself. Miraculously, I did not touch any branches and was completely unharmed. Because there were a lot of branches with leaves and fir needles below me, I could not even see the ground and therefore had no idea how high up I was hanging.
Luckily, two local pilots saw my crash and could call for help.
I was told later, that the SAR-team led by SAR-manager Neil Brewer started the rescue operation around 5:30 p.m. The team consisted of volunteer members of both the Kent Harrison and the Chilliwack S&R-teams and also in cooperation with the local police.
Since I was stranded in a completely remote and inaccessible location, two separate teams were set out for my rescue. One team of six people attempted to reach my crash-site on foot through the rough terrain. Meanwhile, a specially equipped helicopter from Hope used two flyovers to determine my exact location and to evaluate the possible options for my rescue. During the flyovers of the helicopter I tried to draw attention to myself by waving a colored cloth.
The second team of six people was let down a rope in pairs of two from the helicopter on a small clearing, approximately 80 meters away from my crash-site since there was no closer possibility.
After hanging for four hours in the tree, I was reached by the tree-climber of the team, who secured me (the paraglider could still have slipped from the tree), freed me from my paraglider and let me down to the ground.
Even though I knew that people were coming to rescue me, I was very relieved and happy when I saw my first rescuer climbing up the tree.
By the time I was safely on the ground, it was too dark for the helicopter to pick us up and we had to walk back to the starting site (the nearest place reachable by car) through the dense forest.
On our way back we met up with the other team who fortunately had marked the path back. Still, it was a tough and long walk and we only arrived at the starting site at 1 a.m.
I was astonished and overwhelmed by all the equipment and the number of people involved in my rescue and these feelings only intensified after I was told that all of them were volunteers for the SAR teams.
My husband and I would like to express again our heartfelt thanks to everybody involved for their competent, dedicated and highly professional commitment!
We wish you, that all your future rescue operations will be as smooth and successful as this one and even though we do not want to repeat this experience we will never forget it!
After being rescued we are now safely and happily back home and send you all the best wishes from Germany!
Karin Schreiber and Dr. Hellmut Schreiber
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