Man rescued by helicopter after online map directs him down unmaintained logging road

A man whose truck got stuck in snow while exploring the backcountry west of Kelowna, B.C., needed to be rescued by helicopter on Tuesday.

Rescuers say the man was unharmed but the situation could have ended much worse, and they are cautioning hikers and drivers around relying heavily on online maps that can be inaccurate.

Mounties say in a statement that the man was exploring the backcountry on Tuesday near the Brenda Lake recreation area when his new four-by-four truck became stuck in the snow and he called 911.

Police say after the driver couldn’t provide his co-ordinates, and attempts to pinpoint his cellphone were unsuccessful, the Kelowna RCMP helicopter and the Central Okanagan Search and Rescue were sent to assist.

After locating the truck by air, the pilots landed in a clearing and hiked about 500 metres to rescue the driver and fly him out. 

The statement says search-and-rescue officials have seen “a noticeable increasing trend” of motorists relying on online maps to navigate forest service roads, but those can be inaccurate and are not updated with current road conditions.

It says drivers in the backcountry should be aware that most forest service roads are not maintained and are impassable by standard vehicles during the winter months.

“This is a strong reminder to be fully equipped and prepared when travelling into the backcountry,” RCMP Const. Mike Della-Paolera said.

“Our community is fortunate that we have specialized resources from Kelowna RCMP Air Services and the many volunteers with [search and rescue] that are able to assist in rescue in situations like this, otherwise this story could have ended very differently.”

Della-Paolera said in his statement that anyone travelling in the backcountry should visit Adventuresmart, a Government of Canada service that allows users to plan their trips and get prepared for the conditions.

Another search-and-rescue crew in Metro Vancouver also recently warned of the overreliance on online maps potentially leading to serious consequences.

In the past two years, three dangerous and costly search-and-rescue had to be performed on the region’s Mount Fromme in steep terrain, with a non-existent hiking trail in the Google Maps app being removed shortly after the latest rescue on Nov. 4.

B.C. Search and Rescue Association senior manager Dwight Yochim suggests hikers using their phones for navigation consider more accurate apps such as AllTrails, Gaia or Strava — but his top recommendation is to use a map and compass.

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