Rescuers from Cowichan Search and Rescue are advising that people not hike alone after the death of a 22 year-old hiker near Koksilah River Provincial Park last week. (File photo)

Rescuers from Cowichan Search and Rescue are advising that people not hike alone after the death of a 22 year-old hiker near Koksilah River Provincial Park last week. (File photo)

Don’t hike alone in the woods, says rescue worker

Cowichan Search and rescue manager offers advice after death of hiker

One lesson to be learned from the tragic death of the hiker near Koksilah River Provincial Park last week is to never hike alone, according to Dewi Griffiths.

Griffiths, from Cowichan Search and Rescue and the manager of the search for the as-yet-to-be identified 22-year-old, said that from a safety perspective, it’s safer to hike in pairs or groups.

“It’s unfortunate when people get into dangerous situations in the woods while alone, so people should always hike with others,” Griffiths said.

“There’s not usually many fatalities when we’re called in to a case like this and the lost people are typically found alive. We have a team of specialists that are available for our searchers in stressful situations and we encourage rescuers who might need assistance to help them get through this to contact members of the team.”

Up to 35 rescue personnel from a number of search and rescue organizations participated in the approximately 15-hour search on July 19-20 for the lost hiker.

The man was dropped off to explore a cave near the park at about 12:30 p.m. on July 19, and when he had not returned by the designated time of 7 p.m. to be picked up, the RCMP and Cowichan Search and Rescue were called and efforts to locate the man were launched at approximately 8:30 p.m.

Rescue operations were called off at 4 a.m. and resumed at 7:30 a.m. on July 20 with fresh personnel after the searchers had spent the intervening time planning and prioritizing team assignments for the next phase of operations.

The body of the man was found at approximately 11 a.m. on the side of a trail to Eagle Heights where the cave he wanted to explore was located.

The coroner has not released the cause of death, and that information and the man’s name are expected to be released when the investigation is complete.

Griffiths said one rescue crew was pulled off the trails during the search after encountering a large and aggressive cougar.

“They tried scare tactics like making themselves look larger and making lots of noise to drive the cat away but, while it did move slowly away, it showed no fear, so we pulled that team out of the field as a precaution,” he said.

After some media speculation that the cougar may have been the cause of the hiker’s death, Andy Watson, from the BC Coroners Service, said that there is no evidence to suggest that.