Tourists rescued from terrifying camping trip near Ucluelet

Two campers found themselves living in a nightmare when they woke up in the middle of a roughly 300-metre-wide river near Virgin Falls.

The couple had pitched their tent too close to the shoreline and, while they slept, the tide carried them out into the estuary, according to Sgt. Jeff Swann of the Ucluelet RCMP.

“They woke up and realized they were in the water and didn’t know what to do,” Swann told the Westerly.

“They opened the tent door and recognized ‘this is a dangerous situation: it’s pitch black (and) we don’t where we are’…They looked around and found the nearest point of land and they began swimming to that spot, losing all their possessions.”

The couple managed to make it to the isolated patch of land where they spent two harrowing days separated from the way home by 300 metres of frigid flowing water. 

“Everything they had they lost in the tent,” Swann said noting the pair was shoeless and without food or water.

“They spent all day on (May) 18th on this rocky little outcropping, with no food, no water, and then all day and most of the night of the 19th before being rescued.”

The two-day nightmare had started out as a one-day camping trip.

The couple arrived in Ucluelet on May 17 and planned to travel back to their Oceanside home the next day but were reported missing when they didn’t show up to work on May 19.

Police looked into the couple’s banking records and confirmed the couple had purchased gas at Ucluelet’s Petro-Can on May 17.

The Ucluelet RCMP canvassed local campgrounds to see if anyone had seen the couple but these efforts came up snake eyes so search and rescue crews were called on to assist.

Swann said the West Coast Inland Search and Rescue (WISAR) team scoured the West Coast’s vast logging roads and came upon the missing campers’ vehicle parked near Virgin Falls.

The area immediately became the focus of the search and rescuers soon heard the missing campers crying out for help. 

“We were able to make contact with the two missing people…We couldn’t see them, we could just hear them,” Swann said adding WISAR had an inflatable raft in the water within 2 hours of hearing the campers’ cries. 

“We considered lots of different options. But the nature of where we were the only real option—because these people were anxious to get off that land and get to help—was to put in play the plan that we did and it worked out successfully.”

He noted the situation could have become drastic had search and rescue not responded as quickly as they did as the two campers were losing hope.

“They didn’t think they would lasted another night without water or food and they were getting desperate to the point where they were talking about trying to swim across the estuary and that could have had some fatal results if it weren’t for the search and rescue people,” he said.

 â€œJust a tremendous shout out to the search and rescue people… I can’t say enough about this crew. These people are volunteers. They leave their families and put themselves at risk and in jeopardy to help save others in need.”

Swann commended the campers for staying where they were and resisting the temptation to make a panic-induced decision. 

 â€œIt was a bad judgment call of where to put their tent but they did the right thing, they stayed put,” he said.

“Making a choice to swim across a 300-metre length of frigid cold water when you’re already dehydrated, you’re already cold, you’re already panicked, you’re already being driven crazy by the black flies and the bugs…that panic is there, they felt it, but they didn’t respond to it. They knew that somebody would find their truck and they knew that, once somebody found their truck, they would be found.”

 

Andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

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