For emergency and intensive care unit nurse Cody Grant, the snowmobile trek to the Norns Range that he and four experienced snowmobiler riders embarked upon in March 2017, would be at least his 20th visit to the area. Located in southeastern B.C., this spot is a favorite for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers, from snowmobilers to back country skiers.
Towards the end of the day, one of Cody’s friends – who happened to be the most talented snowmobiler of the bunch (Chris) – was in an area which was usually roped off by the local snowmobile association because of blind rolls. He hit a roll and accelerated over what turned out to be a twenty-foot drop. He landed perfectly but the impact of the landing caused an immediate compression of his lumbar spine. He fell off his snowmobile in excruciating pain.
“It was obvious to us that he either broke or seriously injured his back, so we took steps to ensure he was not moving,” says Chris. “Within three minutes of the accident, a decision was made to activate the SPOT Gen3 and send an SOS to emergency responders along with Chris’ GPS location coordinates.”
In assessing their situation, the group realized that they had no pain medication and that they needed to keep him warm until rescuers arrived. About 2-3 KMs away from the accident site, Cody was able to get limited cell service and he sent a text to his girlfriend appraising her of the situation and the need for an immediate heli-rescue.
“I wasn’t able to say exactly where we were, but she knew the general area where we were located.” It was approximately 20 KMs in the back country and the team had little gas left. Within 5 minutes of sending the text, emergency responders contacted her to confirm as much information as possible. A local Search and Rescue (SAR) heli team was then dispatched with a Physician on board to help stabilize and treat Chris during transport. Chris was evacuated to Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital where he was diagnosed with a burst fracture of the L2 vertibrae. The next day he was airlifted to Vancouver to have his spine fused. Fortunately, Chris is now recovering from his injuries and is expected to fully heal within 6 months.
Looking back on the incident Cody says, “My advice would be don’t ever leave on a snowmobiling or backcountry adventure without proper safety gear. Also, have a way to communicate to Search and Rescue if needed with a SPOT device and a cell phone back up. Be prepared to wait. It took about 2 hours for rescuers to arrive. But we were very lucky, we had everything we needed and in the end everything turned out fine.”