Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rescue Me....

Imagine, if you will, getting a call from a frantic mother/father/sister/brother, telling you that their child/wife/husband/family member has gone missing on a wilderness hike/ski trip/canoe ride/whatever.

You are an experienced woodsman/hiker/skier/canoeist; you volunteer to help look for said missing family member.
You risk life and limb, but find the missing family member and all is well.

Imagine doing this on a regular basis. As a volunteer. You don't get paid. It's dangerous work. You do it because you are experienced in the outdoors, and feel a desire to contribute your particular skill to help your community. You don't always find the missing person in time to save their life, but you give it your best shot, risking your own life to try to save someone else's.

Now imagine that you are on a ski holiday, at a resort, wanting a little thrill. There is an area marked out-of-bounds, but you are arrogant enough or bold enough (perhaps even drunk enough) to think you know better than the operators of the ski resort. You and your spouse decide to ski that fresh powder beckoning just beyond the markers. You get lost. You do everything you can think of to attract attention. You stomp SOS in the snow. You spend long cold days and longer colder nights on the mountain. Your wife finally succumbs to the elements just two days before you are finally rescued.

You are overcome with guilt, frantic at the thought of your wife needlessly losing her life because of your own stupidity. Do you compound that stupidity by turning around and SUING THE VOLUNTEERS for not finding you in time to save your wife?????!!!!!

I can only assume that the asshole who went skiing out of bounds in the mountains of BC with his wife (who subsequently died of exposure after they spent seven nights in the elements) has lost his mind..... why else would he sue the people who volunteered to search for him? He and his wife must have known there was at least a chance that they would lose their lives when they deliberately crossed the clearly marked barrier into the out-of-bounds area of the mountain.

This has made me so angry, I can scarcely marshall my thoughts into coherent phrases. Volunteer Search and Rescue organizations all over the country are wondering what will happen. Their volunteer searchers - those brave souls who go out in all kinds of weather at great risk to themselves to help find someone who is lost - are dropping out of the organizations, fearful of being sued for not finding someone on time.

I am over-simplifying the situation, perhaps, but the whole idea of suing someone who didn't have to go out and look for me in the first place doesn't sit well with me.

Those people knew the risks involved in going into an area they weren't supposed to be in, and I for one, hope that this case is thrown out of court. If the case is actually heard, and the fellow actually wins, there will be no-one willing to volunteer for anything ever again, because this opens the door for myriad abuses. Would you volunteer to help someone with their groceries if they could turn around and sue you because you didn't bring the groceries into the house quickly enough to suit them and a fly got into their house? Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? But is it more ridiculous than suing someone for not rescuing you quickly enough from a situation you created with your own stupidity?

Am I off-base? Do I sound like a cranky old woman? What do you think about suing volunteers? Do you wonder, as I do, if some of those volunteers are wishing they had been just a little slower finding this guy?

33 comments:

Lil' Nana said...

I cannot tell you how much I agree with you...
Apparently this couple checked out of the resort, left their vehicle in an underground parkade and didn't tell anyone where they were going.

Once lost, they continued hiking, did not stay near their S.O.S. signs and generally made their own situation worse. That's after they decided to go unprepared into an out of bound area in the first place. I read on the Calgary Herald website they hiked over 20 kilometers. (I think it said 27 km)
It's no wonder the wife succumbed to the elements with that kind of energy expended.

Hopefully, since we, as Canadians aren't as litigious as our Southern neighbours, there won't be a crazy award handed out by the courts setting a bad precedent and shutting down volunteer operations.

We can only wait and watch. And hope. Perhaps they should be billed for the resources used to rescue them...

Yesterday, I had to fill in for a vacationing staff member at a cleaning job. The homeowner is a retired Justice. I was dying to ask his opinion of this suit. But, since I was on the clock I didn't do it.

Looking forward to reading additional comments here.

the Bag Lady said...

Lil'Nana - thanks for commenting. I shudder to think of what will happen if our search and rescue volunteers are no longer able to volunteer! They do such valuable work, and expect nothing in return, except the respect and gratitude they richly deserve!
I, too, am looking forward to hearing what others have to say about this!

Hilary said...

There was a screw up somewhere if somebody saw but ignored the SOS.. but geesh, nobody messed up as much as the couple who did everything wrong. The lawsuit is his way to assuage his guilt. A competent legal system will throw it out of court. We can hope.

I can tell how much this irks you - you're writing in the first person. ;)

Reb said...

That is appalling! I certainly hope it gets thrown out and the asshat gets charged for his rescue. I think anyone that doesn't pay any attention to signs and has no knowledge or survival skills should be charged with the rescue. Forces of nature, like trails failing or avalanches, no, but stupidity should have to pay.

the Bag Lady said...

Hilary - you are right on all counts. Yes, somebody screwed up if they ignored (for whatever reason) the SOS stomped in the snow. And the couple screwed up, too, by going into the out-of-bounds area. I think this guy IS trying to assuage his guilt, but he's going about it in the wrong way. No amount of money will bring his wife back. And screwing up the volunteer search and rescue people will only hurt an untold number of other people. His wife will still be dead and he will still be wrong.
Except he will be even MORE wrong.

And, finally, yes, it irks me too much to write about it in the cheery Bag Lady's voice! :)

Charlotte said...

This is insanity! It's like the people who sue the good samaritan who stops to give them CPR when they're having a heart attack but accidentally breaks their ribs. I hope this man loses his suit and loses big enough to set an example for other selfish people. Sheesh.

Charlotte said...

PS> Hopefully the province will bill him for the astronomical costs of searching for him.

the Bag Lady said...

Reb - I hope it gets thrown out of court, too. I am not sure whether I agree with charging him for the cost of mounting a massive search and rescue operation - after all, he paid dearly for his stupidity, and has to live with the knowledge that he essentially killed his wife. Unless of course, he is of the arrogant mindset that some people seem to adopt - nothing is ever their fault...... which could also be his reasoning. Some people can never take responsibility for their own actions, especially when their actions have had such catastrophic results.

the Bag Lady said...

Charlotte - it truly is insanity! And perhaps this fellow was a little insane to begin with - after all, you have to have something missing in your make-up to go into an area that is clearly marked as dangerous! And the idea of charging him (and others who have done similar things) has been bandied about. I am not sure that it would be a deterrent, but it might be worth a try. It might just make the next person stop and think before they deliberately cross the line.

Crazylady said...

Totally with you on this one. The world has gone totally mad. Whatever happened to personal responsibility!!!??

Miz said...

if youre a cranky old woman then Ive been cranky my whole life.
Ive NEVER GOTTEN THIS and it seems to happen over and over with skiers and climbers (I used to climb a lot so it was often a topic of conversation).

I thought the same thing when I read recently about a person suing the good Samaritan who stopped and helped her at the scene of a car accident. she was subsequently paralyzed and the injured party SUED.

people...

Christine said...

What I want to post contains far too many objectionable words.

I will attempt to replace them with cuddly creatures.



What the bunny were these kittening baby hedgehog holes thinking in the baby otter first place? I mean seriously, how dwarf hamster tiny turtle do you have to be? Fluffy yellow chick! I can't believe how absolutely puppied this world has gotten lately.

kcinnova said...

OOoh, that is all kinds of wrong!

I was trying to decide if I should leave a ranting comment, but then Christine made me laugh.

Missicat said...

I read about this when it happened and feel exactly the same as you do. People just do not want to bear the consequences of their own actions!!! Unfortunately here in the U.S., this is not uncommon. I hope things turn around before people are just too afraid to help others.

Leah J. Utas said...

This gentleman is a supreme asshat. There is no question. But searchers ignored the SOS signals. They are somewhat responsible. Not enough to be sued, but somewhat responsible. The other problem is from what I heard of this the RCMP orders searches, the volunteer organizations can't go on their own without this direction. While I hope useless butt****loses and gets a thorough tongue-lashing from the judge, I do hope the lawsuit causes this rule to change.
In short: you're right.

VeeGettingHealthy said...

Absolutely unbelievable! Heck... the volunteers should sue the stupid-head for wasting THEIR time! Why doesn't anyone take responsibility for their actions anymore?!?!

Like this S.C.governor that pretended to be hiking while actually having an affair with Maria from Argentina. Why can't people just resist physical urges? Geez!

Vee at www.veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

bunnygirl said...

That's ridiculous! The guy's reckless behavior endangered the lives of all those volunteers (and presumably paid rescue workers as well), but HE is suing THEM?

Crazy world we live in.

Emily said...

You are not off here at all, I am totally shocked/annoyed/pissed off that someone could be so selfish. THEY made bad decisions so why should EVERYONE else be penalized? I don't see how they even have a case again the rescue volunteers. Please let us know what the outcome is. As someone who does volunteer work, I don't asked to be thanked but I do ask not to be "punished" for making a mistake; seems logical to me...

Sagan said...

That's really sad and awful. But I agree, suing those people sounds absolutely ridiculous. Either that or we're all just a big group of cranky people.

This guy isn't REALLY getting away with suing all of the rescuers, is he?

the Bag Lady said...

Crazylady - good question! I think this guy needs some counseling.

Miz - I sometimes wonder if the whole world has gone crazy! And people wonder why everyone hesitates to help others.

Christine - your comment totally cracked me up! And I agree one hundred percent!

kcinnova - me too!

Missicat - if this guy wins, then I will lose all hope for the world.
Seriously.

dfLeah - It seems to me there was a reason they ignored the SOS signal, but I can't remember now why. That still doesn't negate the fact that the guy and his wife ignored the warnings.

Vee - I agree!

BG - it is a crazy world when people who voluntarily put their lives on the line to help someone who is in a situation because of his own stupidity can be blamed....

Emily - I will try to update y'all when/if I hear anything more!

Sagan - I sincerely hope this guy isn't going to get away with suing those people. It is simply ridiculous.

Scrumpy said...

See... if he doesn't sue, then he has to take responsibility that his actions killed his wife. Much easier to sue.

Redbush said...

I'm with you on this one Bag Lady! I'm thinking that the guy didn't really have a brain to start with. People sue people for anything these days, and it seems that some of these idiots win their case. I can't even see why it would go to court. Some people are just plain idiots and will do anything if they think they can gain attentions from it!

the Bag Lady said...

Scrumpy - you are right, of course - it can't possibly be his fault, so he needs to sue someone else....

Redbush - he certainly has garnered some attention - guess it doesn't really matter to him whether it's GOOD attention or not. Any sympathy I felt for him for the loss of his wife has been wiped out by this decision of his to lay the blame elsewhere.

Geosomin said...

You are totally right.
I heartily agree with you. People who are recued should thank those who managed to find them, and pay all the costs of rescue involved, because THEY went out of bounds and put themselves at risk and then put others at risk as they hunted for you.
I do a lot of backwoods camping and hiking and I do not, as a rule, ever go out of bounds. Period...for this very reason, even though I am often tempted. The guilt at losing someone with me or someone who had to look for me would be unbearable. And why put yourself at risk like that?

To sue the rescuers? He really needs to deal with his greif in another way...I hope the case is tossed out.

the Bag Lady said...

Geo - I think you are right - he put himself, his wife and all those rescuers at risk - suing the people who helped him seems ridiculous.

Perhaps they should take him back to the mountain where they found him and let him make his own way out.....

POD said...

Writing in the first person! The baglady must be lost!
I hope someone finds her. SOSOSOSOS

I heard yesterday that one of the Oklahoma Murrah Federal Building bombers, Terry Nichols is suing because prison food is not healthy and causing him to sin against God.

In the lawsuit, "He wrote that he sincerely believes that God created mankind to consume unrefined whole foods. He wrote that he is forced to sin against God by eating refined foods that destroy "His holy temple ... my body.”

He is demanding 100 percent whole-grain foods, more fresh raw vegetables and fresh fruit, a wheat bran supplement, and digestive bacteria and enzymes. He wrote that his religious beliefs and requests "are not absurd, unorthodox, nor costly.”

the Bag Lady said...

POD - well, doh. Give the man some healthy food, for cryin' out loud! We all want him to live a long, productive life, don't we?
Sheesh.

I've been out looking for the Bag Lady all day - I think she's transplanting tomatoes or something silly. She'll probably make her way back here tomorrow, and she's gonna be really pissed at me for taking over her blog!

Lil' Nana said...

I think I recall reading the S.O.S. signal was originally disregarded because the authorities thought it was related to an earlier (sucessful) search.
The RCMP had the resort staff check both the register for missing guests and the parking lot for an abandoned vehicle and when there were no irregularities, they didn't send out the SAR folk.

Then, the second SOS was acted on and the couple ultimately found, but too late for the wife.

It must do something to your head to watch your loved one slowly die.
That is the only excuse I can think of. Perhaps seeing the accusatory looks on your children's faces pushed Mr Blackburn over the edge?

Even if the volunteer rescue organizations are insured against this type of claim, a monetary judgement against them will drive up insurance premiums so that many groups will be unable to afford to purchase coverage. They are, after all, volunteers. Apparently, many groups are considering shutting down because they can't afford insurance now.

How many people will needlessly die in the future if he is sucessful in shutting down the little search and rescue groups?

How would Mr Blackburn react in the future if one of his family was left to die in a car wreck rather than getting pulled to safety by a passerby who was afraid to get involved because they might be sued?

This is just wrong!

the Bag Lady said...

Lil'Nana - you are so right. He needs to think this through a little further.... we have a volunteer fire/rescue department out here that is invaluable in providing emergency services. Without them, we would have to wait a minimum of 20 minutes for them to get to us.... and there are a lot of people who live even further from town than we do.

Expat said...

The first thing some people lose when they go on holiday is their common sense. I used to live in Cornwall in England. Our village has a steep winding road down to it with gorgeous sea views at the top and every summer there will be a bunch of moronic tourists who stop just over the brow of the hill and get out and pose for pictures. Apparently forgetting that by doing so they put themselves in the blind spot of other tourists coming over the hill who then have to slam their brakes on to avoid them. Common sense - don't leave home without it.

the Bag Lady said...

Welcome, Expat - too true. What is it about being on holiday that makes people lose their minds? (On the other hand, maybe the only ones who can afford to go on holiday are the ones who didn't have much sense to begin with? Nah, that can't be it....)

Thanks for your comment!

Crabby McSlacker said...

Coming in late on this one, but how appalling! It sounds more like an American attitude towards litigation than a Canadian one. Hope the courts throw this one out!

the Bag Lady said...

Crabby - I do, too! It just seems so unfair!