The snowboarder who was stranded in a steep ravine between Horseshoe Bay and Lions Bay, B.C., on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, survived by sipping on snow, climbing rocks, jumping from tree to tree and using a Ziploc bag full of urine as a warm compress for his hands and body.
All in an effort to stay warm and find shelter.
“It sounds funny now, but I really think that’s what saved my life,” recalls 33-year-old Sebastien Boucher, speaking from his hospital room in Vancouver, B.C.
“I did what I had to do. I managed to find shelter and tried to build a fire but it was impossible without a lighter so I just kept moving. All the climbing and jumping was probably very risky in the condition I was in because I was so tired from snowboarding for 10 hours the first day and moving constantly for two days to try to stay warm.
“I am strong at heart and was determined to survive. All my friends are now calling me Rambo. They said if anyone could survive being lost like that it would be me.”
Mr. Boucher became lost after snowboarding on Sunday and found himself wandering in 10 feet of snow. He immediately called and texted friends to let them know where he was but his cell phone battery kept dying in the frigid temperatures.
“I was only able to talk for five seconds at a time, and then the phone would die. I kept taking the battery out and putting it back in again to get just a few more seconds out of it. I kept giving them information in quick bits.”
He spent two nights in the frigid cold and snow, but was found on Tuesday by a team of air and ground searchers from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and North Shore Rescue, about 10 kilometres from where he originally set out.
When he realized the searchers had found him, he started jumping up and down and waving frantically.
“All I kept thinking was, ‘Thank God. Thank God. I was happy, very happy that I saw somebody. I knew because of these guys I was going to survive. There was no way I could have survived a third night because it was very cold, stormy and wet.
“I am so happy to be alive and to tell this story.”
Mr. Boucher was hoisted to safety on Tuesday by the crew of a Royal Canadian Air Force CH-149 Cormorant search and rescue (SAR) helicopter from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron, 19 Wing Comox, B.C.
It was the four North Shore Rescue ground team that guided the helicopter into position in order to begin the hoist operation. Two search and rescue technicians (SAR techs) were lowered through trees to reach Mr. Boucher, in darkness, snow and high winds, a procedure that can be extremely dangerous.
The Cormorant was launched in support of the ground SAR operation after a request from West Vancouver Police was received through the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Victoria, B.C.
“The rescuers were top notch and very professional,” recalls Mr. Boucher. “I was very impressed. They did a very good job considering the location I was in. It wasn’t easy [to get me out of there] but they came through and they did it very well. It could have been very dangerous but they did it and no one got hurt.
“It was fascinating to see the equipment they have, the way they are so professional. They made sure everything was just right. I was just so happy knowing I would get to drink some water and have some food.”
Mr. Boucher’s stepfather, Yvon Simeoneau, is equally grateful.
“I have a message for all of the people involved in the rescue -- thank you, thank you, thank you for the understanding and for the work you did to find our son.
“It’s still a very emotional affair, but Sebastien is in great health, he’s got sore muscles everywhere but otherwise he’s doing great. I told him never to buy another lottery ticket because he just won it last night.”
Indeed Mr. Boucher knows how lucky he is.
“This is a lesson for me. When you’re on a mountain, you have to pay attention. The slightest second that you don’t, the mountain doesn’t respect you and I found out the hard way.”