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Rescue worker Tim Jones remembered for heroic work

Tim Jones is shown in a screengrab from an interview in December, 2013. He was a tireless spokesman for back-country safety on Vancouver's North Shore mountains.

Justin Smallbridge/THE CANADIAN PRESS

It was in February of 1996 that Rosemary Gander nearly lost her son, Phillip.

The young Venturer Scout, then 18, was hiking with his troop on Mount Seymour when he lost his footing on the icy terrain and fell more than 1,000 feet down a gully system between the first and second peaks.

"His feet just went out from underneath him and he somersaulted and he was gone," Ms. Gander recalled Tuesday. Philip suffered a serious head injury and lay unconscious.

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Two off-duty search and rescue members happened upon the scene and rappelled down to Phillip, staying with him, while another boy took off down the mountain to seek help, Ms. Gander said.

North Shore Rescue (NSR) was then dispatched to the scene and leader Tim Jones dropped down from a helicopter line to retrieve Phillip.

The long-time rescue volunteer would write in a blog post years later: "To make a long story short I had to knock out his breathing and seizuring with some good drugs and then do a blind intubation to secure his airway and breath for him … He spent 19 days in a coma and then woke up!"

Mr. Jones, 57, died suddenly on Sunday after collapsing on Mount Seymour. It is believed he suffered a heart attack. However, the cause of the death has not yet been confirmed.

After his recovery, Mr. Gander went back to school, getting his PhD from McMaster University. Now 36, he lives in Iowa and works as a neuroscientist.

"We know why he ended up in that field," Ms. Gander said with a chuckle.

The Ganders kept in touch with Mr. Jones over the years, and when Ms. Gander on Monday learned of his death, she was left in a fog.

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"I just truly think the world is worse off without him," she said. "I'm just heartsick. I literally spent yesterday close to tears. I couldn't believe it. …He is one of those human beings that comes along once in a lifetime. We've lost a really great man."

She noted that after her son's recovery, Mr. Jones contacted the family and offered to take the scouts back up the mountain. In August, 2007, Mr. Gander took him up on the offer and they hiked back to the spot where he had fallen nearly a decade earlier.

"It was quite an emotional moment for Phil and I was honoured to be there," Mr. Jones wrote in the blog post.

A celebration-of-life service is planned for Saturday at noon at Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver. Family, friends and team members will have priority access to the 660-seat auditorium, but screens and viewing areas will also be set up outside of the theatre.

Curtis Jones, an NSR member and Mr. Jones's son, addressed the media at the rescue base at an emotional news conference on Monday.

"My father and I have worked together in search and rescue for over 10 years," he said. "Together we have been on the helicopter long line and together we have been there for many other people in their time of need. Tim was an amazing boss, mentor, colleague, husband and friend, but most importantly, he was the best father any son or daughter could ask for."

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Meanwhile, an online fundraising campaign set up on Tuesday to create a legacy fund in honour of Mr. Jones had raised more than $7,000 by Tuesday afternoon. Crowdfunding site FundRazr has waived all fees; all funds will go to NSR.

As well, the Justice Institute of B.C. , where Mr. Jones took more than 60 courses over 30 years, has created the Tim Jones Memorial Award Fund in his honour. It will support paramedicine and search and rescue students.

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