Paramedics transport injured paraglider Paul Harvey to a waiting air ambulance last Wednesday. Harvey's sister says her brother's survival is 'a miracle.'

Paraglider injured on South Surrey waterfront expected to walk again

BC Emergency Health Services defends reaction time against witnesses’ criticism

The sister of a paraglider who fell hundreds of feet onto a Semiahmoo Bay sandbar last week says it’s “a miracle” her brother survived the impact.

“He’s recovering from a lot of trauma to his body, and if there is a god he was there for sure that day because this is a miracle… that he survived, that he talked while he waited to be rescued! That he will apparently be able to walk…,” Cat Summer told Peace Arch News Monday via Facebook.

Summer’s brother, Paul Harvey, was airlifted to Royal Columbian Hospital from the waterfront last Wednesday afternoon following the fall, which occurred just before noon.

He was placed in an induced coma and underwent multiple surgeries, Summer said.

Witnesses reported seeing him practising take-offs and landings in a motorized paraglider before running into trouble at a higher altitude and “spiralling straight down” onto the sandbar.

Summer said her brother suffered multiple broken bones, including his neck, back, legs, arm and pelvis, and has “an enormous amount of recovery ahead.”

Firefighters, police and paramedics were all dispatched to the scene.

Friday, BC Emergency Health Services’ executive vice-president Linda Lupini defended the pace of the rescue crews, which had been criticized by some witnesses as slow and confused.

Lupini said it as “a very good example of how when you go to a scene you can’t be panicked.”

Mark Hinkson was among those concerned. He re-emphasized his concerns in a voice message to Peace Arch News Saturday that also criticized PAN’s reporting that first responders had “raced” to the scene.

“It took them a long, long time and all of us eyewitnesses are very upset and frustrated about it, including bad reporting,” he said.

Lupini, however, said the response unfolded as it should have.

“In spite of what appeared to bystanders, this was actually a very, very good response,” she told PAN. “It was co-ordinated, the patient received good care.”

Lupini said fire crews arrived at the site in nine minutes, with advanced-care paramedics just three minutes behind them. A Canadian Coast Guard hovercraft and air ambulance were dispatched at the outset, she added, and the patient was loaded into the helicopter and en route to a trauma hospital “within an hour.”

Criticisms included that paramedics walked from the Semiahmoo Park parking lot to the victim, and that crews did a lot of standing around.

However, Lupini said it was a call with “very complex logistics” that required crews to first connect with a technical advisor, as per WorkSafeBC regulations. She said the incoming tide and related risks of a rescue in those conditions were part of that assessment.

Unlike in the movies, paramedics don’t run into a scene or run with equipment, Lupini added.

“To a bystander, they might have looked like they were standing around and hanging out. They are trained to be very calm and to walk. They can’t be racing with equipment into… situations that might create complications. They can’t do that.”

Lupini said she is sympathetic to the bystanders’ concerns – noting any wait for help “feels like an eternity” – but described the criticisms as “disheartening for my paramedics.”

Officials with the Transportation Safety Board said the incident is not under investigation.

“We’re aware of it and we have gathered and will document some of the data… but are not carrying out an active investigation,” Bill Yearwood, TSB’s manager of aviation accident investigations, said Thursday.

Yearwood described the aircraft as “quite rudimentary… just one step different from a parachute.”

Transport Canada requires them to be registered, and incidents involving them are not common, Yearwood said.

“If we found that there was a slew of these and there was a systemic problem with them… of course, we would look into it more and encourage the regulator” to make changes.

Summer said she could not comment on the response, as she was not there.

She described her brother as “extremely kind and generous with a huge heart.”

He loves adventure and flying, and has always had no fear, she said.

A GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/paul-harveys-recovery) has been set up to help with costs associated with Harvey’s injuries.