Jack Pincus decided to spend his Canada Day in the air, paragliding. A member of the West Coast Soaring Club, he ventured by vehicle around the Beaufort Range from his home in the Comox Valley to meet friends at a launch spot on the Alberni Valley side.
What he didn’t expect was to be hung up at the top of a tree, 35 metres above ground.
“There were a few of us up there,” Pincus said. “When I launched there was a gust that pushed me sideways. Everything to the front was free and to the left was a tree. I found the tree.”
The pilot who launched before Pincus “had a very successful flight. I got unlucky,” he said.
After the pilot on the ground tried unsuccessfully to find an arborist to assist Pincus, they decided to call search and rescue.
The Alberni Valley Rescue Society sent a hoist team with Ascent Helicopters as well as a ground team and called Dave Potter from Totem Tree Services for assistance.
The rescue was a first for Potter, a climbing arborist who owns and operates Totem Tree Services.
“It’s a bit unusual,” Potter said after the rescue. “I’ve heard of paragliders getting caught in trees before; this was the first one for us.”
Potter and the small team of rescuers were airlifted to a logging road near the site at Mount Irwin for expediency. Pincus had already been hung up in a seated position for nearly two hours by the time rescuers arrived (the harnesses they use for flying are designed for sitting, Pincus said). He was appropriately dressed and he had water with him.
“We hiked down to the base of the big tree and climbed to the top, which was where he was stuck,” Potter said. “We set up a system for him to be able to exit the tree.”
Potter explained that Pincus was not injured but he had no way of getting down from that high up in the tree.
“I was able to set up a rope by him and hook up to one of the descending devices. He had some experience with rappelling too.”
Potter and fellow arborists train for this kind of aerial rescue, so although the call was unusual he was trained for it.
Pincus said the rescue went quickly once Potter was up in the tree with him.
“They were fast and efficient and professional,” Pincus said of the rescuers. “I’m really thankful for all the help I got. That’s the story for me is these guys took off on their Canada Day.”
Paragliding is a Transport Canada-regulated sport. The soaring club also has a land access agreement with Mosaic to use the launch site on weekends and holidays.
“We’re trying to follow the rules, we’re prepared and every once in a while things happen beyond our control,” Pincus said.
He and Potter were supposed to go back to the site of the incident and retrieve Pincus’s paragliding wing from the tree the following weekend.