Teens rescued after getting stuck at cave

Jeff Bell
Times Colonist

Rescue worker scales up Niagara Canyon with injured James Felton harnessed behind him. Below to the left is the cave Felton and his buddies Rob Hollingworth and Dan Wilson were trying to reach when Felton fell about three metres to the ground and was unable to get back up.

CREDIT: John McKay, Times Colonist

Paramedic Paula Proctor treats James Felton's wrist after he was rescued.

CREDIT: John McKay, Times Colonist


Three 18-year-old buddies rounding out an overnight camping trip in Niagara Canyon, near Goldstream Provincial Park, had to be rescued Tuesday when they ran into trouble exploring a cave.

Rob Hollingworth, Dan Wilson and James Felton emerged with minor injuries.

"I'm just surprised that the fellas were able to get where they got, and fortunately they had enough common sense to stay where they were because they could have been seriously injured," said Langford Fire Chief Bob Beckett.

"It's frustrating. We hear the message continually through the media -- know what you're doing, be prepared and understand the risks, and also stay out of private property."

The friends' campsite next to Niagara Creek and close to the 90-metre high Niagara railway trestle was on Capital Regional District water department land, Beckett said.

Felton, the last of the trio to emerge from the canyon, was the only one to reach the cave tucked into a rock face near the raging creek. He ended up with injuries to a wrist and ankle, suffered when he had to drop onto rocks next to the cave entrance.

"It's starting to sink in -- that 'back on solid ground, and everybody's going to be OK,'" Felton said after B.C. Ambulance paramedics had tended to his wounds.

"My mom's so gonna ground me after this," the Mount Douglas secondary student quipped. "No allowance either."

As for Hollingworth and Wilson, both are interested in the search-and-rescue field and were surprised to be the focus of a rescue operation.

"It's ironic that I'm the one being rescued," Wilson said after his ordeal. "This is the kind of career I've been looking into."

Hollingworth, who hurt his thumb after falling several metres while trying to get to the cave, said he learned a lesson from what happened.

"Come prepared if you're going to plan on rock climbing, have your gear with you."

Felton, who spent close to five hours at the cave, said it turned out to be a rather uncomfortable place.

"It was pretty cold in there, the cave actually was fairly wet."

He said he and the others tried different ways to reach the cave.

"My two friends ... were shimmying down a tree another way and I was using some overhanging roots above the cave. As I started climbing down the roots they started to give way, and I pretty much had to just jump off there or where the roots fell. I hurt my ankle and wrist when I landed."

"It's going to be a while before I go camping again."

Felton expressed appreciation for the rescuers' efforts.

"Thanks very much, and I'm sorry to make you guys all come out here. I really appreciate it all."

Beckett said the combined rescue team from the Langford and Saanich fire departments faced several technical challenges, including a large amount of loose shale and other rocks, as they used a series of ropes to get to and from vantage points in the canyon.

"There's a number of challenges and safety is paramount, and fortunately the young men weren't too seriously hurt, none of the firefighters were hurt, and that's extremely important to all of us."

Beckett said he will be filing a report to Langford council about the possibility of "cost recovery" for the expense of the rescue, an outlay he said could be thousands of dollars. "I'm just looking at a deterrent and sending a strong message regarding safety."

Copyright 2004 Times Colonist (Victoria)

On my way home yesterday, I saw the Saanich Rescue truck headed south from outside their AOR, and wondered what they were up to... then the report on this story came over the news. Some very lucky lads here.