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Searchmont ski patrollers recognized for lifesaving efforts

‘Every second counted’: Team of four patrollers received national Canadian Ski Patrol award for quickly transporting a patient off ski hill at Searchmont last season
Searchmont ski patrollers Paul Hendrie, Jason Willet, Nancy Askin, and Hilary Prouse received a nationally recognized lifesaving award for their swift efforts in evacuating a patient off the hill last season.

A quick-thinking team of ski patrollers at Searchmont have received one of the highest national honours from the Canadian Ski Patrol.

Nancy Askin, Hilary Prouse, Paul Hendrie, and Jason Willet were presented with the John D. Harper Lifesaving Award, which recognizes a first aid performance by patrollers whose rescue skills are deemed to be extraordinary.

Following a life-threatening injury on Searchmont Resort's main hill last season, the four patrollers reacted swiftly to ensure the victim was tobogganed safely to the bottom of the hill before they were transported to the Sault Area Hospital for further medical care.

Askin, a 46-year veteran with the Canadian Ski Patrol and the team’s current director at Searchmont, told SooToday she couldn’t be prouder of her colleagues.

“Everybody brings something different to the table to make an incredible and unique team,” she said. “It’s fabulous, and I’m extremely proud of them. Being part of a team is great.”

The ski patrol director recalls heading up the ski lift when the call of a serious incident came in. Prouse, a then first-year ski patroller, and Willet, a paramedic patroller, were a few seats ahead of Askin on the same lift. Hendrie, another paramedic, was off-duty and happened to be at the top of the hill.

“It was kind of fortunate the three of us were already on the way up,” Askin said. “Paul was just free skiing with his friends and standing at the top not knowing anything. The call came to me since I’m the lead, so I dispatched it to Jason and he went in first. Hilary was behind him, and I got off the lift and asked Paul to help and he went with us immediately.”

First to the scene, Willet assessed the patient and called 911 right away. He was joined by his three colleagues just moments later, and the team worked together to treat the victim and evacuate them from the hill.

“We knew it was very serious,” Askin said. “It was critical that decisions and actions be taken very quickly to get the patient off the hill. We knew we had to hand the patient off to further care. It was a quick decision by Jason to call the ambulance, and then a quick evacuation in the toboggan off the hill.”

“Everybody working together and supporting each other was the big thing,” she added. “Paul and Jason had a higher level of skills in their repertoire than Hilary and myself. But working together as a team and using all our skills to do what we could was important, because every second counted.”

Askin estimates her ski patrollers respond to an average of 130 reported incidents at Searchmont each season, around half of which require toboggan evacuations.

Grateful for the recognition on this particular incident, the director says the team has never received an accolade as illustrious as the John D. Harper Lifesaving Award before.

“We’re just doing our job, but it’s nice to receive the recognition for sure,” Askin said. “There aren’t a lot of these awards given out from the Canadian Ski Patrol, so it’s quite an honour to receive one, and confirmation that what we’re doing is the right thing to do.”

“We train for these sorts of things but hardly ever do the lifesaving skills – which is a great thing,” she added. “When it does come time, I’m really proud to know the four of us pulled through and the patient survived.”

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Alex Flood

About the Author: Alex Flood

Alex is a recent graduate from the College of Sports Media where he discovered his passion for reporting and broadcasting
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