From Where I Sit – Fundamentally Wrong

The adjective ?homebody? could accurately describe me, at least in one-dimensional terms. No one would ever mistake me for an extreme athlete. I don’t ski or go sledding in the high country. We don’t know how to swim so boogie boarding, diving, white-water rafting, and other water sports are also out. I’m not a hiker or a mountain climber. I’d sooner bed down at Jasper Park Lodge than pitch a tent in bear country. I don’t speed or race motorcycles. We don’t do recreational quadding either.

We do, however, own a 1985 Honda Big Red trike. It became a sort of chore vehicle that was used to chase cattle who had escaped from pens. For the past 10 years or so you’d more likely find Roy using it to save steps around the yard. I hook up a utility wagon to it when I’m working in the flower beds.

Boring, you say? Live to see another day, I say.

I’m willing to bet a search and rescue team will never have to risk their lives to save mine. But if through no fault of my own they do, I hope they still exist. Now that is far less of a certainty than anyone could have imagined.

In February, according to media reports, a Quebec couple went out of bounds while skiing in the back country near Golden, BC. On the seventh day they were missing, the wife succumbed to hypothermia. Two days later the husband was rescued. To show his gratitude he has launched a lawsuit against the RCMP, the search and rescue team, and the resort they had checked out of. He contends that the SOS signs they had stamped into the snow were ignored, which led to his wife’s death.

The way I remember the press coverage at the time this couple was far from blameless in this outcome. They clearly were in an area they shouldn’t have been in. They hadn’t notified anyone of their plans. They left their car in the wrong parking lot, where it was overlooked by resort staff. They didn’t stay with their SOS signs but continued moving. I don’t remember if they were properly dressed or carried any emergency provisions.

Hello? Is this man an idiot? This lawsuit has caused some search and rescue teams to suspend operations. These selfless unpaid volunteers don’t want to risk personal legal action and possible financial ruin because of people like this man. Some groups carry liability insurance. Others do not. According to Harry Blackmore, president of the Search and Rescue Association of Canada, $6 million worth of services are offered free to Canadians each year.

There isn’t space here to explore all the facets of this complex issue but for starters . . . Where does the Good Samaritan law fit into this? How about billing these ignorant, reckless thrill seekers for the actual rescue costs incurred? And finally, where is personal accountability in all this?

I don’t know his motives (survivor’s guilt, a cash grab, an overzealous lawyer) but this just seems fundamentally wrong, from where I sit.

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