COURTENAY — A 70-year-old Nanaimo woman visiting Hornby Island died Saturday when she fell off a cliff in Helliwell Provincial Park, located on the southeast tip of the island.
On Tuesday, the B.C. Coroner’s Service confirmed the woman identity as Donna Anne Whittome.
Witnesses said Whittome was walking along the edge of the cliff around 3 p.m. when she appeared to have bent over to have a closer look at something on the ground or possibly tie a shoe, and fell over the edge, Doug Chinnery, deputy chief of the Hornby Island Fire Department, told media.
“We arrived on scene and found our patient at the bottom of the cliff motionless. There were two civilian rescuers who had some first aid training who were making their way to the patient at the time,” he explained.
Chinnery added the fire department set up their rigging system and a few of members lowered to help out.
“Around the time that our members got to our patient, the Coast Guard from French Creek also arrived. The three teams of rescuers worked on the patient for awhile, and were unable to restore a pulse at that point. They loaded her onto the Coast Guard boat and took her into Tribune Bay where the air ambulance was waiting,” he said.
Tony Law, of the Islands Trust, told media the accident is upsetting for all residents.
“We are all aware that the high cliffs can be dangerous, but at the same time, we want to see the view, and we want to experience it. One thing we need to keep in mind is that thousands of visitors come to Hornby every year, and this is the first accident like this that I’ve known of,” he noted.
He added the coroner is investigating the incident.
“We will see what can be done to increase the safety without compromising what everyone comes there to enjoy. I expect a reasonable solution to come out of this to increase the safety of people visiting the park,” he said.
Updated to reflect release of the victim’s identity.