Helicopters and rescue boats were called into emergency service to save the life of a lighthouse keeper at a remote lighthouse on the wild northwest tip of Vancouver Island in Canada’s British Columbia.
It was 3 a.m. this past October 2nd when Harvey Humchitt, Jr. started his shift at the Cape Scott Lighthouse, one of Canada’s still staffed light stations. At first, he thought it was just gas, but by late afternoon he was doubled over in pain. “I was keeling over, grabbing my chest,” he recalled to a reporter of the CBC.
By the time he decided to call for help, a dense fog had engulfed the entire region. This would make a rescue to the Cape Scott Light Station, which is only accessible by helicopter, boat, or the rugged North Coast Trail, extremely difficult. By the time a helicopter was dispatched and landed on a nearby beach by the lighthouse, the fog had become increasingly thicker, making a helicopter rescue departure impossible.
A Coast Guard tow vessel, the Atlantic Eagle was then ordered to the area, but the fog and other weather conditions prevented them from getting to the lighthouse. That’s when the Canadian Coast Guard Station Pachena Bay ordered the launch of a five-person lifeboat from the Port Hardy Rescue Station, which is about 50 miles to the east of the lighthouse. When they got close to light station, the lifeboat crew launched a Zodiac with a three-man crew that was able to fight the dangerous four to five-foot swells and safely land at the lighthouse to get the ailing lighthouse keeper off the island.
Because of the extremely bad weather conditions, it took the lifeboat crew three hours instead of the usual one hour or so to reach Port Hardy from the lighthouse. Humchitt told the CBC reporter, “I was in a lot of pain. At one point the pain was so bad, I wasn’t able to focus on anything or concentrate on what was happening.”
Once they reached Port Hardy, Humchitt was taken from the boat and transferred to an ambulance which had to drive another 25 miles to the hospital in Port McNeill, where he was given blood thinners to help increase the blood flow to his heart. The following day, he was airlifted an additional 223 miles to a hospital in Victoria, British Columbia, where he underwent angioplasty and was given two stents. This proves once again that medical help in remote areas is almost nonexistent. Lighthouse keeper Harvey Humchitt, Jr. had travelled over 300-miles, some of it in dangerous conditions, to get the medical procedure that saved him from dying of a massive heart attack.
This story appeared in the
Jan/Feb 2023 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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