Site of teen ac­ci­dent a semi-pop­u­lar swimming hole

Cor­morant he­li­copter used in res­cue at North River falls

Cape Breton Post - - PROVINCIAL/CANADA - BY HARRY SUL­LI­VAN MCCAL­LUM SET­TLE­MENT

“It’s just a cool spot in the woods.”

So says Alexis Zegray, 16, as she and her friend Char­lotte Wheel­don, 15, stand on a steep, moss-cov­ered, rocky em­bank­ment over­look­ing the West Branch North River.

About 21 me­tres be­low this very se­cluded spot in a re­mote wooded area off the Old Truro Road, is what is known as the North River falls. Slightly be­low where the teens are stand­ing, is the spot from where another 16year-old Colch­ester County girl fell Thurs­day evening, strik­ing a rock on the way down and in­jur­ing the lower por­tion of her body be­fore end­ing up in the wa­ter.

“It’s scary,” Alexis said, think­ing about the pre­vi­ous night’s ac­ci­dent.

An RCMP spokesman said the teen, who was swimming at the site with sev­eral other peo­ple, lost her foot­ing af­ter climb­ing up on the em­bank­ment just be­fore 7:30 p.m. Af­ter land­ing in the wa­ter, the teen was “im­me­di­ately” brought to shore by oth­ers on scene.

Zegray said she has oc­ca­sion­ally vis­ited the site since last sum­mer “just to jump off the rocks. And it’s like a se­cret place to swim,” she said, while quickly adding that she never jumps off the “high rocks, just some of the low ones.”

But Zegray said she could only imag­ine the dif­fi­culty that would be in­volved in try­ing to res­cue some­one from the base of the falls. “It would be like im­pos­si­ble (to get them out),” she said.

The tree-lined path into the site is nar­row, with boul­ders, tree stumps and roots pro­trud­ing from the ground. It twists and turns, rises and falls un­til you come to the edge of the em­bank­ment, at which point is be­comes in­cred­i­bly steep.

Well-worn paths run hel­ter, skel­ter here and there through the trees and wind down along sheer cliff edges un­til you reach the bot­tom, where a deep pool of fresh, cool wa­ter gath­ers af­ter rush­ing down from the falls, be­fore car­ry­ing on down­stream.

“This was tough. It was def­i­nitely tough,” said Guy Gallant, as­sis­tant deputy chief of the North River and Dis­trict Fire Brigade, of the res­cue ef­fort.

“Just set­ting up was very dif­fi­cult for the mem­bers be­cause we still have to wear our pro­tec­tive equip­ment. And even though it’s the sum­mer stuff, that’s lighter, there was a lot of per­spir­ing that was go­ing on,” he said. “The foot­ing wasn’t great.”

Just get­ting in or out of the site of the res­cue took each mem­ber 15 to 20 min­utes to go one way, he said, “so con­di­tions for get­ting there were sub­stan­tially dif­fi­cult for us, as well.”

His mem­bers re­ceived the call out shortly af­ter 7:30 p.m., Gallant said, but once on site it didn’t take long to re­al­ize they were go­ing to need other, spe­cial­ized help.

“Once we un­der­stood that it was a high-an­gle res­cue, we called in the spe­cial haz­ards team from Bi­ble Hill and they re­sponded with their high­angle team,” he said.

Two crews of EHS paramedics were also on hand along with mem­bers of the Colch­ester Ground Search and Res­cue.

Be­fore the night was over, nearly 50 in­di­vid­u­als would be­come in­volved in the res­cue ef­fort – 40 of whom were vol­un­teers.

As well, mem­bers of the Val­ley Kemp­town and Dis­trict Fire Brigade went on stand by for four hours to fill in for the dis­placed North River brigade.

“Ev­ery­one who had their own spe­cial­ties worked well with the other teams,” Gallant said. “Com­mu­ni­ca­tions went well.”

SUB­MIT­TED

Res­cue teams, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the Spe­cial Haz­ards Res­cue Team in Bi­ble Hill, are seen set­ting up for a high-an­gle res­cue from the base of the North River Falls on the West Branch North River on Thurs­day evening. A 16-year- old Colch­ester County girl was even­tu­ally air­lifted from the base of the falls by a Cor­morant he­li­copter be­long­ing to the 413 Res­cue and Trans­port Squadron out of Greenwood.

Gallant

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