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Mountain biker rescued but trails damaged after North Van crew's truck gets stuck

Residents thought the damage was done by midnight off-roaders
Part of the Hyannis Trail was damaged May 5 after a District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue crew’s truck got stuck on the way to extricate an injured mountain biker. | Karen Schultz

The mountain biker will be OK. It’s the trail that’s going to need some work.

District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services members rescued an injured mountain biker on Mount Seymour on Sunday afternoon, but got their rescue truck stuck in the process and dealt some damage to the trails while having it towed out.

The mountain bike crash happened on Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, a Black Diamond trail between the third switchback of Mt. Seymour Road and the BC Hydro powerline right of way.

Assistant chief Dwayne Derban said the crew tried to reach the man via their usual method – driving a rescue truck down the trail network from Mt. Seymour Road but found themselves unable to get back out. They tried heading straight down the Hyannis Trail but they got themselves stuck about a kilometre up the trail from the top of Hyannis Drive.

The truck was “high centred,” meaning the wheels were too far off the ground to get traction and move forward, and the crew opted to call in Mitchell's Towing.

Unfortunately, the tow truck was too wide to make its way up the narrow trail, so one of the operators had to return that night with his own personal 4x4 and a winch. It wasn’t until 3 a.m. that he got the truck out and towed to one of the district’s fire halls, Derban said.

Residents in the area began to notice the damage the next morning – tire ruts, pieces of the truck left behind, roots exposed and wooden platforms broken. Several contacted the North Shore News and DNV Fire concerned that the damage had been done maliciously or caused by midnight off-roaders abusing the trails.

Derban said they will be placing a sign at the trailhead informing visitors about the incident, adding that he and Fire Chief Mike Danks have personally been in touch with some residents to assure them they are working with Metro Vancouver, which has jurisdiction over the land, to “get some remediation done to bring it back to the previous or better conditions.”

“The damage to the trail was a consequence of just where the rescue occurred and the fact that Mother Nature changes topography and roads, and what’s possible at some times of the year is not possible and other times of the year,” he said. “We don’t just zip in and zip out and we’re not yahoos.”

The good news was that the misadventure didn’t get in the way of rescuers getting the injured mountain biker to an ambulance waiting at the top of Hyannis Drive.

“There were no delays on his recovery,” he said.

Derban said he understands the public’s concerns about the trail damage, but also wanted to remind the community that the North Shore’s trails are extremely popular, and that when there is an emergency, they must use the fastest and safest method possible to get their subject out.

“We are a fire and rescue organization. Our priorities are people’s lives, people’s health, and then property and the environment,” he said. “If we have to do some damage to property to save a life, we’ll do it and that’s what happened in this case.”

As of Tuesday, Metro Vancouver staff were still determining the extent of the damage and what would have to be done to fix it.

“While public use of motorized vehicles is prohibited on trails, from time to time emergency services may need to use equipment like trucks or ATVs for timely, lifesaving rescue operations,” a statement from the regional authority read. “Metro Vancouver works with District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services and other agencies to ensure emergency response needs may be met, while supporting our goals for environmental conservation and trail maintenance.”