Rana Weihs of Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue participates in a swift water drill. Training for search and rescue personnel is extensive and the JDF team has to be ready to perform a wide variety of tasks given their large coverage area.

Longtime volunteer has experienced range of rescues

Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue hosting open house at new operation headquarters

When a hiker gets lost in East Sooke, or a climber breaks their leg descending Mt. Macdonald, there’s a good chance Victoria Weber will be leading the search and rescue operation.

As one of Juan de Fuca Search and Rescue’s senior managers, Weber has just about seen it all in her 35 years of volunteer service, from multi-hour stretcher hauls through the back country to a frantic search for a lost child.

Most search and rescue personnel volunteer because of a desire to help people, and that’s true of Weber as well, but some also enjoy the inevitable excitement and adrenaline that comes with a hair-raising rescue operation. Weber, however, looks at each rescue a little bit differently.

“For me it’s more the challenge. It’s like this really big, complicated puzzle and I like doing the investigation, finding the pieces of the puzzle and then putting the pieces together. That’s the excitement for me … and at the end of that, we might save a life.”

One of the biggest puzzles Weber has ever had to assemble happened in the 1980s when a seven year-old boy ran away from a scouting camp.

The boy was alone and lost in the wilderness, and the situation grew in urgency with each tick of the clock.

“He was a city boy, he had just moved from Toronto and didn’t have any outdoor experience,” Weber recalled. “He was missing for days and days and we were starting to get discouraged and starting to wonder where this was going to go.”

Weber was the leader on the team that found the boy, who was covered in mud and had survived on his own by eating bugs and worms.

“It was like he had grown up in the bush. He just stayed alive,” she said.

Weber describes the experience of the helicopter rescue and reuniting the boy with his family as intensely emotional.

“I helped him out of the helicopter into his mom’s waiting arms. That (memory) will stay with me forever,” she said.

Weber, whose so-called “real life” job is in nursing, says while public education around safety in the back country has improved compared to when she started with SAR, online access to trail and hiking information is making it easier for less experienced explorers to find themselves in troublesome situations.

“We’re getting a whole bunch of people who are not hikers … yet they do a Google search and take their cell phone and think they are invincible and away they go,” she said.

More experienced individuals are doing more extreme activities as well, according to Weber. Whereas three- or four-hour hikes might have been the norm when she started, three- to four-day hikes are becoming increasingly popular.

JDF SAR boasts 45 of what Weber calls “very active members” and another 20 or so people on reserve. Their coverage area includes a large swath of land on the southern part of Vancouver Island, stretching from the Metchosin municipal border right through to Pacific Rim National Park, including the south end of the park itself.

Recently, the organization has taken over the former East Sooke fire hall as its home base. They’ve also completed some renovations to the building and welcomed the addition of a new command vehicle.

With those exciting developments in mind, the organization is hoping the community will join them for an open house this Saturday (Oct. 22) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at their new headquarters (1397 Coppermine Rd.) A barbecue, door prizes and children’s activities will be among the highlights of the event, with the goal of raising funds for the organization’s day-to-day operations, training and equipment.

“(Donations) go directly into the services that we offer that help save lives,” Weber said.

joel.tansey@goldstreamgazette.com

Just Posted

Sooke’s First Nations have Iroquois links

References to the proud Iroquois race tend to make one think of… Continue reading

Mad Hatter’s Ball offers laughs in support of Boys and Girls Club

Annual fundraising event features improv performances at McPherson Playhouse May 24

SidFest 7 ready to rock the Mary Winspear Centre

The Bankes Brothers and Madrona Drive headlining May 24 concert

Penelakut filmmaker Steve Sxwithul’txw finds success in film and TV

Cop-turned-storyteller reaches back to his past for Tribal Police Files

Choir offers a capella take on Beatles hits

Soundings will perform concerts in Oak Bay and Sidney May 24 and 25

Kelowna RCMP interrogation video brings home reality in ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

Video of Mountie interrogating young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse under fire

Update: Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Vancouver Island MusicFest: ‘House bands’ from the golden age of rock and R&B

Some of America’s greatest session musicians are coming to the Comox Valley this summer

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Full-scale search underway for missing kayaker on Okanagan Lake

Kelowna Paddle Centre member Zygmunt Janiewicz, 71, failed to return from his ‘daily kayak’ on the lake

Bucks hammer Raptors 125-103 to take 2-0 playoff series lead

Toronto heads home in a hole after second loss to Milwaukee

Most Read