Overdue hikers in the Oliver area were located by search and rescue, with the help of RCMP, early Monday morning.
Oliver and Osoyoos Search and Rescue were tasked by RCMP around 1:40 a.m. to help look for three missing hikers who were exploring the Gallagher Canyon area north of Oliver.
“The 15 search and rescue team members proceeded to do several hasty searches in an attempt to make contact with the subjects throughout the morning and we were updated that there was actually 10 in the group that had been separated into two groups,” said Rob Selsing, search and rescue manager.
The group included two adult females, six adult males, two youths and three dogs. Contact was made with one of the groups around 5 a.m. and they were successfully extracted and brought to the search and rescue base at 7 a.m. Five people were still unaccounted for and their location unknown but Selsing they finally managed to reach they by cellphone at 9 a.m.
Air support from the RCMP had been requested just prior to this, however they were unable to see the group despite flying over them several times due to the canopy of the trees. After co-ordinates were obtained using Google maps, the RCMP air support confirmed they had a visual of the group.
Selsing that group then hiked the remaining way to the search and rescue vehicles located at the base of the canyon and brought back to the base around 10:20 a.m.
“They were all mostly just tired, and actually the second group was better prepared than the grist group because they had what we call the essentials with them. They also, in fact, had sleeping bags and blankets. We heard the other group did not. This group was prepared to stay overnight if they had to,” said Selsing.
The hikers had left two vehicles by the distillery just north of Oliver in Gallagher Lake and two other vehicles east of Okanagan Falls on a forestry road with a plan to hike down to natural waterslides in the canyon. Selsing said at some point one group got ahead of the other and they became separated. The search and rescue manager said this incident serves as a good lesson for anyone hiking in the South Okanagan backcountry.
“Have a trip plan for sure, and stick to it. Sometimes you can’t always do that but try to stick to it and don’t separate yourself from the group. Be prepared and have a small backpack with your essentials in it, whether that is medication, water, protein shakes or bars or whatever you need. If you are using electronic equipment be aware if you have sufficient battery power and have a map and compass as a backup so you know where you are going,” said Selsing.
As a volunteer organization, Selsing said many of the OOSAR members that had been scheduled to work at their regular jobs had to make alternate plans today as they had been up since the early morning searching for the hikers.
The OOSAR is currently fundraising for a new project — a truck and trailer station. For more information visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OliverOsoyoosSAR/.
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