Over the weekend emergency crews were called to a heavily wooded area in Central Saanich to rescue two skydivers stuck in a tree.
Central Saanich Fire Chief Chris Vrabel said they got the call around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 17, which elicited a multi-agency response of fire and search and rescue, along with ambulance and police.
“One was able to walk out and the other had one fracture of an upper limb – both had abrasions and scratches,” Vrabel said.
The pair were trapped in a tree canopy about 100 feet off the ground in an area on Rae Leigh Place off of Mount Newton Cross Road, according to Vrabel.
Nathan Franklyn, an arborist with Bartlett Tree Experts with over 20 years aerial rescue training, was brought in to assist emergency crews.
“The trees were thinner in diameter and we were concerned of them breaking,” said Vrabel, about why they called in Franklyn.
“They were in a tree and (emergency crews) couldn’t access them with a bucket truck or ladder truck,” Franklyn said. “I found a way to secure the tree and the limbs they were in and used our rigging equipment and pulleys to attach it to them and lower them down.”
Franklyn said as an arborist he trains annually for similar situations, but he has never had to put his practice to the test.
“Obviously they were really stressed out just from trying to hold on and not move from the position they were in – they were worried if they moved it would dislodge the parachute or a limb would break,” said Franklyn. “I was advising them to stay steady and stay calm and not move that much, but you could tell they were struggling … the fellow who was attached to the instructor, you could tell he had some trauma to the head and he was in distress.”
The instructor and tandem jumper were from Capital City Skydiving in North Saanich.
Bob Verret, owner of Capital City Skydiving, said what occurred over the weekend is rare, but instructors are trained for how to handle those types of situations.
“(The instructor) did exactly what he was trained to do and probably prevented further injury. He must have been hanging in the tree upside down for three hours,” said Verret.
As for the cause of the incident, Verret said he is still investigating, but as soon as he saw the jumpers were headed for the trees a call was made to emergency crews. Verret then sent a plane to search for the exact location of the parachute and called it in to police.
“Everyone worked together very well. No one agency could have pulled this off,” he said.
Vrabel said the rescue wrapped up around 6 p.m. Both skydivers were taken to hospital.