Arrowsmith Search and Rescue president Nick Rivers. (PQB News file photo)

Arrowsmith Search and Rescue president Nick Rivers. (PQB News file photo)

Hero reflects on harrowing rescue of man from raging Vancouver Island river

Nick Rivers rappelled into the Little Qualicum River to save a man clinging between two waterfalls

Two days after plucking a man from the frigid waters in Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park on Saturday, Dec. 12, Nick Rivers is definitely “feeling it” on Monday.

“I’m doing alright. Sore, but it comes with the territory,” said Rivers, search and rescue manager of Arrowsmith SAR and a Parksville business owner.

Rivers rappelled into the raging Little Qualicum River to rescue a man who was “clinging for life” to a log between two waterfalls. According to Rivers, the entire operation took 25 to 30 minutes to complete and the rescued man was taken to a nearby hospital for medical treatment.

The reception from the general public that Rivers received following the rescue has been all positive. He mentioned that since 6 p.m. yesterday, media inquiries have poured in, and he jokingly said he is “having a hard time keeping up with the fame.”

Rivers did not that being in the public’s eye does “bode well” for the Arrowsmith SAR’s current fundraiser for their new hall, saying that “the attention couldn’t hurt,” but he didn’t want to push the agenda. The group has asked for public assistance with the $1.2-million project, with member Stuart Kirk telling the PQB News the call volume has doubled over the last decade.

Typical rescue operations by Arrowsmith SAR throughout the year are predominantly on land, locating and rescuing lost hikers. Rivers said that water rescues only happen “once or twice a year” and that Saturday’s rescue was the first for 2020.

READ MORE: Rescue crews save man from raging Little Qualicum River waters

The rescued man has yet to reach out to Rivers, but he has learned the man is “now doing OK.”

Rivers’s advice for the public is to pay attention and to keep safety at the forefront during outdoor expeditions, and that “risks tend to be fairly obvious.”

According to their website, the Arrowsmith SAR coverage ranges from Cook Creek to Lanztville, to the east end of Cameron Lake to Jedidiah and Lasqueti Islands.

Rivers said he’s been involved in some “pretty intense rescues” in the past, but he can’t say that he’s experienced anything “that intense” before.

BC Search and Rescue Association treasurer Jim Harrison said “the outcome could have been quite a bit different.”

“In this case there was the anchorage there for the ropes, properly trained members that were trained in both rope rescue and swift water. If they were not available or if that site had been further away from their equipment and access… the team on-site might have made the decision not to go into the water.”

With winter rescues, Harrison said there are a number of safety considerations to take into account.

“Water temperature requires extra gear to ensure that members don’t get hypodermic,” he said. “And especially on the Island, with increased rain during the winter months, water levels can fluctuate. When water levels are high, log and other debris can wash down as well, which is always a major concern when in swift water.”

mandy.moraes@pqbnews.com

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Arrowsmith Search and Rescue crews rescued a man from the water on Saturday, Dec. 12 in Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park. (Screencap via tiktok/@quinnteechma)

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