Helicopter pilot’s spotting of ‘dots that waved’ led to rescue of 2 teens

The mother of one of two Langford teens rescued after being stranded for 24 hours on a remote logging road near Chemainus remembers the relief she felt when an RCMP helicopter touched down, returning them to safety.

“I couldn’t run fast enough. I hugged them so tightly,” said April Phillion, the mother of 15-year-old Jordan Phillion, who had set off on a backroad adventure Sunday with his friend, Dylan Deroy, 18.

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The teens were the subject of a massive search after they failed to return home on Sunday evening.

After a night spent sleeping in Dylan’s pickup truck and climbing a mountain in hopes of getting cell reception, Dylan and Jordan were spotted walking along a logging road by an RCMP helicopter heading to Cassidy to refuel.

Dylan and Jordan typically spend Sundays exploring logging roads around the Cowichan Valley and chopping wood in the forest, Phillion said.

“This is something Dylan has been doing for years with his dad,” she said.

When they left Sunday at 10 a.m., the boys mentioned a few locations, including Youbou.

After stopping to buy snacks in North Cowichan around 11:30 a.m., they headed toward Copper Canyon.

Part of the road had washed away in the previous day’s heavy rain. “So the road caved in underneath their truck and started sucking in the front tires like quick sand,” Phillion said.

As Dylan tried to back out, the front wheels became more submerged. That was at around 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Neither of their cellphones had any service.

Dylan was supposed to call his dad, an experienced logger and search-and-rescue volunteer, at 2 p.m. to check in. He never made that call, which is when both families started to worry, Phillion said.

The teens decided they would hike to the top of Big Sicker Mountain to try to get cellphone reception but they couldn’t make it before dark. They hiked back down and slept in Dylan’s truck.

Jordan told his mom they tried to light a paint can on fire to create a make-shift flare.

Dylan and Jordan only had the food they purchased from the store and the clothes on their backs, so they drank river water.

On Monday morning, they started the 30-kilometre trek down the logging road, which they estimated would take eight hours.

As they walked, a search team of RCMP officers, Cowichan Search and Rescue volunteers and concerned citizens scoured the area looking for them.

The search team was based out of the Lake Cowichan Co-op, which is where Phillion, her seven-year-old son Jacob and Deroy’s family waited for news.

“I was beyond beside myself yesterday,” she said. “It was the longest day of my life.”

The search was like a “needle in a haystack,” Phillion said, because no one knew exactly where the pair were headed.

“My mind was racing to some pretty scary thoughts,” she said. “It’s such a vast area.”

Phillion said she was overwhelmed by the search effort, which included quad bikers and forestry workers who stopped what they were doing to search.

Around 2 p.m., an RCMP helicopter pilot heading to refuel spotted two black dots on the logging road. The pilot later told Phillion he thought they were bears but then he saw arms waving.

“It was absolutely just amazing luck,” Phillion said.

The helicopter was able to land and pick up Dylan and Jordan, who were exhausted and scared.

The boys’ families received word that they had been found safe and waited for the helicopter to land on the field of a Lake Cowichan school.

Jordan and Dylan told their parents they were terrified they weren’t going to be coming home, Phillion said.

Jordan is heading into Grade 11 at Royal Bay Secondary School. He’s been friends with Dylan, whose family lives two doors down, for years, Phillion said.

She said the experience has taught them that they need to be better equipped when exploring the wilderness.

“It’s great they’re doing these kind of things, going out and exploring, but they need to be more prepared,” she said, adding she’ll be getting Jordan a GPS device.

“We are holding each other very tight today,” she said.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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