A Pilot Who Rescued People From The BC Floods & Mudslides Reveals What It Was Like

"Until you see it, it's hard to fathom."

Vancouver Editor
A Pilot Who Rescued People From The BC Floods & Mudslides Reveals What It Was Like

A pilot who worked day and night to rescue people during the devastating floods that hit B.C. in November just revealed what the experience was like.

Kelsey Wheeler, who flew a helicopter for Talon Helicopters, which worked with North Shore Rescue, spoke with Narcity about the intense rescues.

After a busy summer, during fire season, Wheeler recalls starting to feel more relaxed as they expected things to slow down. That did not happen though, as he said that the flooding catapulted them all "into emergency mode again."

It wasn't like anything they had dealt with before, as B.C. got historic amounts of rainfall, leading to mudslides, flooding, and highway destruction. Entire homes were left in disarray as towns were evacuated. Multiple people lost their lives during the chaos.

Wheeler said that it was on a "different level this time," since they were getting calls from individuals asking to be rescued, not just the typical calls from B.C. rescue agencies and emergency agencies.

They were trying to manage the rescue flights going out and the "abundance of phone calls" that they were getting from people with questions, and from people who wanted to be flown out from places with dangerous floodings, such as in Hope, Wheeler explained.

While completing these rescues, and receiving more calls than usual, Wheeler recalls it being "an overwhelming four or five days for sure."

His first rescue during the floods was in Merritt, where he took one of the helicopters and rescued people who were in imminent danger from the rising waters.

"We hoisted them from their house," he said, before moving on to their next mission. It wasn't only people they hoisted out though, but also pets that needed to be saved.

Some people desperately needed to be rescued and they were helping houses that had 12 or 15 people in them. Others though "wanted to stay because they had a boat or different access," Wheeler said

Wheeler said that typically they are rescuing people from fires, or the woods, but this time they were taking people from their homes. This was different, he explained.

"People that we pulled off their houses were thankful to be safe and all that kind of stuff, but then there's just a different realization afterwards of like, they're basically losing their house that day."

He said that it was emotional for people, having to abandon their homes in the floods, and he recalls seeing the houses "just surrounded by water."

"Some of the devastation on the roads you kind of hear about, but until you see it it's hard to fathom, like just chunks of highway gone," he explained.

When flying over cities that he had been above many times, and seeing them completely flooded, he said that you have to "block yourself from looking at the devastation that is happening."

To focus on his mission, he had to not think about all that was going on around him, and it wasn't until a few days later it sank in, and he thought "wow, this is something that you never expect to see."

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