Tim Jones, who spent years in B.C. rescuing people in distress, is being remembered today as a hero by family, friends and those whose lives he saved.
Jones, the leader and spokesman for North Shore Rescue, died on Sunday evening after collapsing from sudden cardiac arrest on a trail near a rescue cabin on Mount Seymour.
The 57-year-old had been a volunteer with the rescue service since 1987, while also working as an advanced life-support paramedic and paramedic-in-charge for the B.C. Ambulance Service in North Vancouver.
Jones had been involved in about 2,000 rescues over the past 2½ decades, including one a few weeks ago when hiker Luci Cadman lost her way on Mount Seymour.
"It was a clear trail for the first couple of hours. It was getting high up. There was snow there. And then suddenly it just went dead. There were trees everywhere across the road where the trail should have been. There was no visibility of a trail at all," said Cadman.
In hindsight, Cadman said, she should have turned back. But she thought if she kept going she would eventually reach a road.
"It got pretty treacherous. I crossed a few small creeks, had a few falls, fell through a few bridges," said Cadman.
The sun began setting and the conditions were getting dangerous. Exhausted, Cadman called 911 and the dispatchers forwarded her to Jones.
"It's incredible what they did," said Cadman. "Tim, on the phone, he kept me very calm the whole time and everyone on the team, when they found me, they were so nice."
The team told her to stay put, deployed a helicopter to find her, and rescued her about four hours later.
"I was very worried that people would be mad at me, but they were very reassuring, very professional."
B.C. lawyer Kathleen Walker remembers living every mother's worst nightmare after her son Aaron went missing while snowboarding on Cypress Bowl. The boy had become lost and was swept down Australian Gully. The team looked for him all night and found him the next day.
"I can honestly say I've never been more grateful to anybody in my life than Tim Jones. When somebody saves your son, it doesn't get any more important than that. And he didn't make us feel guilty."
'I want Tim running the effort'
"Professional" is also how Whistler Search and Rescue manager Brad Sills describes his old friend and colleague.
"There are a lot of words that could be used to describe Tim. Professional, of course.… Fearless. He stood for what he believed in. Bold. Not afraid to speak his mind," said Sills.
The two men met in 1994 during a large-scale search in Whistler. Even then, said Sills, Jones was a "shining star" who "rose above everybody else."
Sills said one of Jones's most extraordinary achievements was leading the rescue of some of his team members stranded on Mount Logan in Yukon about a decade ago.
"They were weathered out and were trapped on the top of the mountain in very, very poor shape. And he managed a rescue effort from North Vancouver that literally saved his team members' lives," said Sills.
"I often said to my members, 'If I'm ever lost or injured in the wilderness, I want Tim running the effort.'"
Tributes pour in
News of Jones's passing spread on social media Sunday night, beginning with a tweet around 10 p.m. PT by North Shore Rescue.
The rescue service also posted the news on its Facebook page: "Seymour patrol, BCAS, RCMP, Fire and Lions Gate staff all put in a massive effort to save Tim but unfortunately he did not come through."
Today, flags at southwest B.C.'s Emergency Communications headquarters were flying at half-mast.
Premier Christy Clark, who presented Jones with the Order of British Columbia in 2011, issued a statement this morning expressing her condolences.
"He dedicated the best part of his life to helping people in the worst moment of theirs."
Meanwhile, Attorney General Suzanne Anton said Jones's search and rescue system will be his lasting legacy.
"Tim Jones was the voice and face of search and rescue in British Columbia. He was a terrific practitioner and he was a terrific advocate. He will be really missed."
Jones and his work were recently featured in a documentary called To the Rescue, which premiered on CBC's Doc Zone last week.
On his LinkedIn profile page, Jones had written that he had dedicated his life to becoming a helicopter rescue co-ordinator.
"Outside this, I have only one aspiration after this and that is to pay back my wife for time lost," Jones wrote.
A service in celebration of Jones's life is planned for Saturday at the Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver.