Helicopter damaged attempting Monkman rescue

Trent Ernst, Editor


A Ridge Rotors Helicopter was damaged attempting to rescue a BC Park Ranger with medical issues along the Monkman Lake Trail.

According to Hans Nogel, president of Ridge Rotors, a call came in on Friday September 12. The local pilot took off from base to locate the two park rangers, but was unable to locate them at the GPS coordinate he was provided. “We were told the ranger was in a fetal position because of stomach problems,” says Nogel.  “We went out to the GPS location which was in the middle of some tall trees where there was no possibility of landing, so the pilot landed nearby. He walked down the trail and called out but, couldn’t locate them. So he went back to the helicopter, and lifted off, to do a visual survey of the area. Eventually, he did spot them, but there was no good place to land. By then, he was out of daylight, so he returned to base.”

The ranger was near the Shire Campground, along the Monkman Lake Trail.

Overnight, the RCMP and Tumbler Ridge SAR worked on organizing a plan to extract the 21 year male from the area.

The next morning, a helicopter was dispatched to the site with SAR personnel on board. They were hoping the people would have moved to the nearby helipad, a short distance from where they had spent the night, but they had not, so the two SAR personnel went to locate the rangers, who had moved out of the forest and into a small clearing.

The sick ranger was in very rough shape, and the decision was made not to move him to the helipad, but to have the helicopter land in the clearing.

The two SAR volunteers stayed with the rangers as the helicopter pilot went back to fly closer. “He tried to land in a very tight area with lots of trees and brush” says Nogel. “But the tail rotor struck something, and he had to do what is known as a hard landing.

There was damage to the rotor, and the pilot wasn’t able to fly out. Fortunately, say Nogel, the pilot was uninjured. They called in another helicopter. Meanwhile, they were able to move the sick party to the helipad, where the second helicopter was able to land without incident.

Nogel says that the company has since gone in and retrieved the down helicopter. It was not able to be repaired on-site, he says. “We went in with a bigger aircraft of our own; took all the loose parts off, lifted it out and put it on a trailer on the Bully Creek road.”

Nogel says he’s still waiting to have the damaged assessed, but he expects it will cost a few thousand dollars to repair. The park ranger who had been experiencing medical distress was treated locally at the Tumbler Ridge Medical Centre and released.