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Comox air squadron commended for rescue of hundreds after B.C. landslides

Praise for 442 Squadron, based at Comox
Search and rescue personnel help flood evacuees disembark from a helicopter in Agassiz, B.C. on Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

The Royal Canadian Air Force’s 442 Squadron, based at Comox, has been singled out for outstanding courage for a mass rescue of people trapped by landslides on a B.C. highway last year.

The Honourable Company of Air Pilots, a group based in the United Kingdom, has awarded the squadron the Barry Marsden Memorial Award for outstanding performance in a time of exceptional distress. The company said the squadron showed exceptional dedication to rescue 311 people, 26 dogs and a cat trapped by landslides on Highway 7 near Agassiz.

Last November, a series of atmospheric rivers flooded communities, washing away highways and prompting several landslides, including one that killed five people.

The company said the Cormorant crews were able to land on the highway in deteriorating weather and gale-force winds, despite the congestion and debris caused by the slides.

The company said: “The sense of duty displayed by all members of 442 in anticipating what needed to be done was evident from the technicians supporting efforts to launch all available helicopters, the crew members stepping up to volunteer to fly, and the leadership displayed by the command team as the crisis unfolded.”