• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

High-risk rescue pulls hypothermic man from river in Little Qualicum Falls Park


Army.ca Myth
Reaction score
Wow... nice work Arrowsmith SAR.

And the name of the SAR Tech? Nick Rivers. Seriously....

A hypothermic man was pulled out of churning frigid waters between the waterfalls at Little Qualicum Falls Park in a high-risk rescue by the Arrowsmith Search and Rescue team.

Nick Rivers, a search-and-rescue manager who is also a swift water rescue technician, was lowered by rope into the turbulent waters where he lunged to grab the man, holding on until they were pulled up a cliff to safety.

Rivers moved quickly to catch the man, who ended up in the river just 4.5 metres above the lower waterfall.

“The forces on us were absolutely incredible,” Rivers said Sunday.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know exactly how I was able to hang onto him for as long as I did. It was definitely not easy. I’m very sore today.”

The team was called out at 3:08 p.m. Saturday, arriving on the scene just 12 minutes later.

“We found the individual straddling a log in the middle of the river … So a very precarious position.”

That’s when Rivers attached his ropes and was lowered 26 metres from a cliff into the water.

“We know that he is going to quite cold so we wanted to move urgently.”

Rivers went into the pool and tried to get upstream onto another log. “I tried to climb up that log so that I could get into the river and come down and end up on his log in front of him.” That would have allowed Rivers to put a harness on the man.

“But I couldn’t pull myself up. The current was much too strong.” Instead, “I came in below him … I got up to the log and then he lost his grip and got knocked off the log.

“At that point, he was headed to the waterfall so I jumped after him and just grabbed a hold of him,” Rivers said.

“I just physically held him until they could pull us in with the rope system.”

The two were pounded by the rough water. “There were a few times I was underwater for longer than I would have liked.”

Rivers held on to the man until the pair were pulled to the side of the river. At that point, the harness went on and the two were hauled up together.

Thirty people were on hand, including the Arrowsmith SAR team, Alberni Valley Rescue Squad and firefighters from the Coombs and Dashwood fire departments.

Asked how long it took, Rivers laughed and said: “It felt like a couple of hours but it was probably only about 25 minutes.”

In a video, the man, who Rivers said appeared to be in his 30s, is slumped over at the end of a partly submerged log.

“He appeared to be so hypothermic that he pretty much had no strength left,” he said. “Pretty much couldn’t talk anymore.”

The man was put on a stretcher and B.C. Ambulance took him away. Rivers did not have an update on his condition Sunday.

Rivers, 28, has been in search-and-rescue for a decade. The Parksville resident is also a ground-search team leader, is trained in rope rescue and serves on the Arrowsmith SAR executive. He owns N. Rivers Auto and Marine, a repair and fabrication business.

“In terms of water involvement, this is definitely the most challenging and technical for sure, probably one of the more riskier tasks,” he said.

Ropes are not typically attached during water rescues. But because the ropes were vertical, rather than horizontal, “We were able to keep the rope on me so I couldn’t go over the falls.”

The team trains a lot and is prepared for the environment, Rivers said. This year, the volunteer team trained for almost 5,000 hours. That’s down from the usual 6,500 hours because of COVID-19, he said.

“It is scary,” he said of Saturday’s rescue. “It is not exactly a theme park. It’s real life and you are physically holding on to somebody and mustering every amount of energy you can to save their life. So it’s stressful for sure. Yeah, it’s a challenge.”