It was a warm day in June when Kelly and her group set out to tackle the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail along the southwestern coast of Vancouver Island. Even as hikers with years of experience, the excursion quickly became an emergency.

“On the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, we were just trudging along in the mud and trying to be careful, watching every step. We even started singing a song about being in the mud because there was just so much,” said Kelly as she set the scene. “At one point, we stopped on a bridge, and right after I stepped off it, I felt my ankle snap and fell onto my back. I couldn’t stand up.”

Kelly’s rescue experience was a unique situation that required deep collaboration between RCMSAR, the Juan de Fuca Search & Rescue (ground SAR), and the Juan de Fuca trail crew.

Once Kelly and her group realized she was badly injured, they went into high gear to get help and used the InReach they had, which is a two-way satellite communicator that works where cell phones don’t. However, they struggled to contact help as the signals were only being reached in the USA. Fortunately, the Juan de Fuca trail crew came along as they worked on the trail and used a cell phone to call the Victoria RCMP for help.

“I was in a lot of pain while we waited to be rescued. At the time, I didn’t know that I had broken my ankle. When I fell, I landed in the mud across the trail, and they didn’t want to move me, so they carefully placed one of the trail crew’s heavy-duty rain gear underneath me,” said Kelly as she explained the waiting process. “Even though it was a warm day, I was getting cold laying there, so jackets and emergency blankets were being put on top of me to keep me warm.”

The Juan de Fuca SAR was the first group sent out to help. Not long after the ground crew arrived, they also heard the RCMSAR boat come. RCMSAR was called to the scene as getting Kelly down from the trail to the water and back to shore would be the fastest way to receive medical attention.

“I felt so relieved when help, including RCMSAR, arrived. All of the volunteers were so polite and respectful. I was expecting them to say, “what are you doing on this trail? You broke your ankle. You shouldn’t have been here.” But instead, they all said, “Oh, that could have happened to anybody,” and they were always asking how I was feeling. I was blown away by how professional, kind, and competent everybody was,” explained Kelly.

When asked whether any specific RCMSAR volunteer interactions stuck out, Kelly explained that when she got onto the boat, “a fellow sat and talked to me the whole way back to shore to keep me distracted. He also asked many questions about what we had with us and our hiking experience while letting us know how prepared we sounded. I appreciated the friendly conversation, which kept my mind off the pain.”

Once RCMSAR docked the boat, they lifted Kelly on the stretcher and quickly got her into the ambulance waiting for her, making the process of getting to the hospital easy. Kelly shared with great gratitude for the vital support she received that day.

“RCMSAR is as professional and competent as any commercial organization. I had no idea RCMSAR existed until they came to help save me. I’m so grateful.” 


Kelly sits wrapped in an emergency blanket waiting for Ground Search and Rescue and Marine Search and Rescue crews to arrive.  Read more here.


Story written by Meliha Ulker, RCMSAR Communications Intern 2022

The Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) is a volunteer-based charitable organization that operates more than 30 marine rescue stations along the coast of British Columbia and inland waters. Established in 1978, and first known as the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary – Pacific, RCMSAR is called on to respond to marine emergencies by the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in British Columbia through an agreement with the Canadian Coast Guard. RCMSAR collaborates with a number of provincial and local first responder agencies – like ground search and rescue – to ensure the safety of our community members.