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Injured Victoria hiker rescued after iPhone sends out distress call

The phone detected that the man, who was hiking above Century Sam Lake in Strathcona Park, had fallen

An injured Victoria hiker was rescued from a slippery ledge in an isolated area of Strathcona Park on Sunday after his iPhone, which has an automatic fall-detection system, sent out a distress call.

The 41-year-old man, who was stuck on the ledge above Century Sam Lake after injuring his leg in a fall, also used the phone’s satellite feature to call 911, said Comox Valley Search and Rescue search manager Paul Berry.

RCMP and private helicopters carried eight members of the Comox Valley Search and Rescue Team along with medical gear to reach the man, get him on a stretcher and fly him to safety.

The man, whose name was not released, was hiking alone above the lake, which is at the base of the Comox Glacier, Berry said Tuesday.

He was in a “fairly isolated location and conditions were quite slippery” and he “took a significant tumble,” said Berry who was at the scene.

The man had been hiking through snow for much of the day, although he was not in snow at the time of his fall.

As a result of his injury, the man was not able to move from his location, said Berry, adding the hiker was “cold and wet and in a significant amount of pain.”

The man was lightly dressed and did not have a lot of survival equipment with him other than the iPhone, he said.

B.C. Emergency Health Services received a notification through the phone’s emergency relay centre alerting it to a medical emergency near Century Sam Lake.

As teams were flown in to the area, other search and rescue ground teams moved toward the site on logging roads and to the trail-head using utility task vehicles.

Ground crews are dispatched whenever air crews are sent out in case land transport is required. “You never know what you are going to find,” Berry said. In this case, they were recalled before reaching the site.

The eight members flown in made their way down a single-track trail to reach the man. A rope system attached to the stretcher was used to help move him off the ledge.

“It was narrow enough that it was difficult to transit with the stretcher with two people alongside … and quite slippery conditions,” Berry said.

Terrain below the ledge was at a 40 to 50 degree slope and slippery. The hiker was carried about 200 metres to a waiting helicopter that took him to the Courtenay Air Park to meet two ambulances.

Paramedics provided emergency medical care and transported the patient by ground ambulance to hospital, said B.C. Emergency Health Services spokesperson Rachelle Bown.

Search and rescue groups recommend that hikers ensure someone knows where they are going and how long they plan to be there. It’s also always best to travel with someone else, Berry said.

In January, an iPhone automatically sent out a distress signal when a vehicle carrying two men went down a steep embankment south of Nanoose.

The phone’s satellite-linked emergency alert system sent latitude and longitude ­co-ordinates of the accident scene, and searchers arrived in a little more than an hour. The temperature was below freezing and the men would have had to walk about 10 kilometres to reach a gravel pit that was linked to roads leading to the highway.

The men, who received minor injuries, were not aware that a distress signal had been sent.

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