Siblings' efforts may have saved stranded paraglider's life, police say
The complex rescue of a 61-year-old paraglider in Gatineau Park this week might not have been possible without the help of two locals who jumped into action, police say.
MRC des Collines-de-l'Outaouais police got an emergency call Thursday around 2:15 p.m. about a paragliding accident in the park near Luskville, Que.
Rae Becke, whose family owns a farm at the base of the hill the paraglider was stranded on, said her dad had seen the man paragliding — and then police coming up their driveway.
"My dad came running up and asked if I could help take them up to where the accident was," Becke recalled Friday.
An avid rock climber, Becke said she ran inside to get some gear as the man was stuck on a cliff in a hard-to-reach spot.
Her brother, Tait, led two police officers on a pathway up the hill, while she took one officer up directly to him.
"There was another paraglider with him, who was lovely, taking care of him, holding his actual basket that he was in so that he didn't roll down the cliff. And his chute was still attached to him, but he had it all taken care of so that it wasn't going to make him fly away," she said.
"You could hear his breathing was not sounding very good, and he was obviously in distress."
Becke said she tied a rope to a tree, then used it to secure the man's basket and also passed it to the officer so they could get up.
That manoeuvre allowed the other paraglider to safely cut off the man's parachute, Becke said. They all then waited for a helicopter to arrive.
"The most important thing was keeping him stable, keeping him comfortable and keeping him breathing," she said.
'An amazing job'
It took first responders about three hours to get to the scene. A team of police from Gatineau, Que., and paramedics and firefighters from Ottawa were able to stabilize the man's condition once they arrived, and the Sûreté du Québec dispatched a helicopter to extract the man.
By around 8 p.m., the man was out of the park and in hospital. In their most recent update Friday, police said his injuries remained life-threatening.
The actions of the two Becke siblings may have helped save the man's life, said MRC des Collines-de-l'Outaouais Sgt. Martin Fournel.
"They did an amazing job, even guiding us up the hill, helping with the victim," Fournel said. "Without their help we don't know at this point if the victim would have survived."
Becke and Fournel both said the rescue teams were faced with a difficult ascent and rough terrain.
"They have to hike all the way in from the road [with] all their gear and their medical equipment and then [they have to] get to the top of the mountain," Becke said. "It's a bit of a process."
Special rescue squad?
Becke said that as someone who enjoys extreme sports, she's dealt with a few similar situations — including a rock climber who'd fallen two weeks before the paragliding accident.
She said she hopes the rescue might spur discussions around getting a specialized team for Gatineau Park and the surrounding region.
"I just think that we really need some sort of either volunteer rescue team, or a rescue operation that is set up specifically to deal with accidents that happen in the park," she said.
"It's amazing that [the first responders] are so supportive and they can come out and help us. But it's a long time to wait to get that entire team out here."