Nova Scotia

How getting a stunning photo turned into a rescue operation

A Saturday morning trek to get some sunrise photos in Duncans Cove, N.S., turned into more than what the two photographers were expecting.

Photographer Allan Zilkowsky slipped on ice after taking pictures of the sunrise at Chebucto Head

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      Whenever Allan Zilkowsky heard about people needing to be rescued from the woods or other areas, he used to question why they got themselves into the situations they did.

      Now, he can answer that question himself.

      The East Lawrencetown resident and his friend Chris MacFarlane were hiking on the Chebucto Head trail in Duncans Cove, about 30 minutes outside of Halifax, Saturday morning. The photographers were on a hunt to get pictures of the sunrise.

      'This is something more major'

      After taking their pictures and packing up their gear, they turned to head for their car when Zilkowsky slipped on an icy rock and his ankle gave out. He knew right away something was wrong.

      "It's one of those feelings you get where you jar your ankle," Zilkowsky said in a telephone interview from the hospital.

      "I tried to put weight on it and I thought, 'Yeah, this is something more major.' The next thing that clicked in was we're not probably in a good spot to be getting out of here."

      Allan Zilkowsky and Chris MacFarlane both had high praise for the first responders that helped rescue Zilkowsky from the trail at Chebucto Head. (Chris MacFarlane Visuals)

      Zilkowsky estimates he and his friend were "a good 20-minute hike" from the entrance to the trail and it was difficult footing all along the way.

      "It was just a bad spot to be."

      After calling for help with a cellphone, Zilkowsky and his friend waited for first responders to arrive. When they got there, firefighters determined an on-shore rescue wouldn't be safe because of the conditions and instead, approached from the water using a rescue boat.

      An unusual rescue

      Acting division commander Dennis Pitts with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency said it's not uncommon for them to get calls about people who have fallen near the rocks on the trail, but this style of rescue is a bit unusual.

      "Normally we can do a shore-based rescue but, because of the ice and the snow, for rescuer safety it was felt that we were better off doing a water-based rescue," he said.

      Zilkowsky was then transferred from the rescue boat to the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Sambro, which took him to a waiting ambulance in Ketch Harbour.

      Being photographers, Zilkowsky and MacFarlane documented the rescue process.

      Scheduled for surgery

      Despite experiencing some embarrassment over how the trek ended, Zilkowsky had high praise for first responders in the field and medical staff at the hospital.

      "They know what they're doing," he said. "Everybody's been great."

      He's scheduled for surgery on his ankle in the next few days.

      Hopes to be shooting again soon

      Zilkowsky, who works for The Co-operators insurance group by day, said he hopes to be back behind the lens doing what he loves by next weekend — he has accreditation to shoot the upcoming UFC event in Halifax.

      "That's a long day next to the cage kneeling down, so if they can get surgery hopefully early this week and things get stabilized and I can manage [the] pain, I'm looking forward to doing that, plus getting back to work Monday morning," he said.

      About the Author

      Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca