Steve Shard didn’t know Tim Jones. John Howe did. Both, though, say the untimely death of North Shore Rescue’s longtime leader this week was a shock that should serve as a reminder of the immense value of the work that Jones and other dedicated rescue volunteers offer British Columbians.
Jones, the North Shore Rescue team leader who has been lauded as a “tenacious leader” and a “true superhero” for his work over the past three decades, died late Sunday (Jan. 19) while descending from a rescue cabin on Mount Seymour. He was 57.
Jones worked with North Shore Rescue for more than 25 years, participating in more than 1,400 rescues and becoming the face of the organization. In 2011 he was awarded the Order of B.C. and given an honourary doctorate by Capilano University.
Tributes to Jones started appearing on social media immediately after the group posted the sad news on its website. Local and provincial leaders, including Premier Christy Clark, were among those who offered comments about his contributions and offered condolences to his family.
Howe, the Squamish Search and Rescue Society president, on Tuesday (Jan. 21) said SSAR members were shocked and saddened by the news. Howe and many others had worked directly with Jones, including John Willcox, an SSAR member who was Jones’ partner as a paramedic for some 20 years, Howe said.
“He was the most dedicated, hard-working and energetic SAR member that I can think of in B.C.,” Howe said. “He was tenacious and relentless in pursuit of something that he believed would benefit the SAR community, most specifically North Shore Rescue.”
Howe said he communicated with Jones on a regular basis about the issues and challenges facing their respective teams. A couple of summers ago, Jones even volunteered to serve as SSAR’s backup search manager when needed, and led a couple of searches with the SSAR team, Howe said.
“He was just one of those types of people who commanded respect and attention from all of us,” he said. “Him and I didn’t always agree on everything but I certainly respected everything he had to say. We often talked about the issues facing each of our teams, and I’ll certainly miss having the chance to do that with him.
“It’s a huge loss and it just came as an absolute shock,” Howe said of Jones’ sudden passing. “We had finished a SAR training session at Diamond Head and we got the news. We were just devastated, and our thoughts went out right away to his family.”
Shard didn’t know Jones but he, too, was saddened by the loss and felt motivated by personal circumstance to view the tragedy as a chance for citizens to show their support for the work that SAR volunteers do on a regular basis.
In August 2008, Shard and his wife Wendy were on a two-night hike to the Elfin Lakes area in Garibaldi Provincial Park when Steve began to experience excruciating pain in his back. Determining that he couldn’t hike the 11 kilometres out to the parking lot, the Shards found an area that had cell phone coverage and phoned for a rescue.
An SSAR team eventually arrived by ATV and helicopter and Steven Shard was airlifted to safety to Squamish General Hospital, where he later underwent back surgery.
Shard was listening to members of B.C.’s SAR fraternity discuss Jones’ passing on the radio this week when one of the speakers suggested that now might be a good time for those who have been touched by SAR to make a donation to the cause. Shard decided to take that advice and challenged others to do the same.
“I tell my personal story to serve as a real-life example to all that venture out into our great outdoors. Misfortune, and not just in the backcountry, can happen to anybody,” Shard wrote.
“We count on these people who volunteer their time, and all the training they do trying to avoid dangerous situations takes a lot of time and money,” he told The Chief in an interview. “I made a small donation and I think it behooves people to do that, if they can afford it.”
For information about donating to Squamish Search and Rescue, visit www.squamishsar.org
— With files from Andy Priest, North Shore News