RCAF Search and Rescue Technicians (SAR Techs) with help from local emergency crews from the RCMP, Kelowna Fire Department, Provincial Ground SAR and BC Air Ambulance were able to evacuate three survivors to hospital on RCAF and Air Ambulance helicopters. Unfortunately, a fourth occupant on board was declared deceased at the scene by first responders.
The operation began at approximately 3:15 p.m. when commercial airplanes in the area began receiving signals from an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT), commonly carried on aircraft. Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Victoria was alerted by Air Traffic Control authorities and sent a Buffalo Search and Rescue airplane and Cormorant helicopter to investigate the source of the ELT.
The Buffalo arrived in the area at approximately 5:00 p.m. “We initially turned towards the Princeton area where the ELT signal was being reported,” said Captain Mike Brush, the Buffalo Aircraft Commander. “Once in the area we were able to pick up the signal and home it which assisted us in spotting the downed aircraft”.
The two SAR Techs on board then parachuted to the crash scene and began caring for the survivors and preparing them for evacuation to the hospital.
“We jumped from 2500 ft above the ground with our medical gear,” said Warrant Officer Dan Lamoureux, SAR Tech. “Once we located the survivors, I radioed back to the Buffalo to drop additional medical supplies by parachute”.
Once the site was located, JRCC Victoria coordinated with provincial authorities to summon other emergency first responders to help.
While the SAR Techs provided care to the injured, the Buffalo dropped a smoke marker on a nearby intersection to assist in directing first responder vehicles to the crash scene, a wooded area near Brenda Mine Road.
“The local emergency workers and BC Air Ambulance personnel were a Godsend,” said WO Lamoureux. “We worked well as a team and we were very fortunate that they arrived to help us get the people out of the plane wreckage.”
The Cormorant arrived on scene at approximately 7 p.m. and flew one of the patients to hospital in Kamloops, while the two other survivors were flown to Kelowna by BC Air Ambulance. All were in critical condition. Their present condition is unknown.
Search and Rescue (SAR) incidents under the federal SAR mandate are defined as “all aircraft incidents and all marine incidents in waters under federal jurisdiction.” RCAF SAR crews train routinely to respond to such incidents.