It’s a tragedy that has left local search and rescue members in shock. One of their own didn’t return from a mission. Drowned while trying to make a difference.
According to her peers, Sheilah Sweatman of Ymir was the embodiment of a search and rescue team member. The 29 year old had a thirst for the outdoors and a passion to make the lives of complete strangers better.
When people found themselves in a bind or an accident put lives at risk, she never hesitated to answer the call. She didn’t question the circumstances that lead to the call-out, she simply put her skills and training to work helping.
That unselfishness defines search and rescue members across the province. Ironically, that approach also makes it easy for British Columbians take these volunteers for granted.
It’s believed Sweatman is the first volunteer in BC search and rescue history to be killed in the line of duty. When you consider the number of calls these folks answer a year, it’s surprising.
When people get into trouble, most often the conditions that surround the incident are unusual. The dangers in our backcountry are many, the geography unforgiving and the weather unpredictable. Search and rescue teams rarely venture out to help save lives under ideal circumstances.
This extremely rare death is testament to the high level of training and the focus on safety search and rescue crew members execute every time they venture out. The level of organization and knowledge these volunteers exhibit while in the field is impressive. It’s also necessary.
Last week’s tragedy has prompted several investigations. Once completed we can only hope search and rescue members will be handed one more tool to strengthen their skills.
Sheilah Sweatman’s death should not be in vain. If what is learned can be used to help save the life of another, it would be a small tribute to the change this young woman sought to make.