An unidentified flying object observed in the sky over Squamish last week has been identified.
Kerry Brown, Rhonda Patterson, Isabel Perez, Robert Howells and Michael Quesnel all noticed a strange light in the sky over the downtown area just after 8 p.m. last Thursday (Dec. 29). Described as a bright orange light it moved slowly from east to west across the sky going in and out of view.
"It appeared to disappear and reappear in different places because of the clouds," Brown wrote on a Facebook post.
According to Quesnel, it eventually disappeared on the west side of the Squamish River, seemingly dipping down into a mountain valley.
Raph Nenquin was one of a number of people who captured video of the strange light. He published his two and a half minute video to the Internet. People on the video can be heard commenting that they had seen a number of similar lights in the sky earlier.
Patterson said she thought it might be a meteor or a crashing plane. Kids at her house were crying and freaking out.
Lieut. Trevor Reid at the air force base in Comox, however, confirmed that two aircraft from 19 Wing Comox were in the Squamish area Thursday night.
"Those were most likely flares that were being dropped by a Buffalo search and rescue aircraft," said Reid. "That would have been in support of a rescue attempt after an avalanche in the Pemberton area."
The aircraft were trying to go to Casper Creek to aid in the rescue of Duncan MacKenzie, who died after being carried into a treed area by an avalanche Dec. 29. (for more on the story read this week's Pique).
Reid said about 18 flares were used throughout the night by the military search and rescue aircraft and he added that the aircraft eventually returned to Comox when it was learned that a ground crew had been dispatched to the avalanche site to recover Mackenzie.
John Wilcox of the Search and Rescue team in Squamish said the RCMP contacted his SAR team when Squamish residents started reporting strange lights in the sky.
Wilcox contacted the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) and learned that two aircraft from Comox were trying to make their way to Casper Creek. Wilcox said he learned from the JRCC that the two aircraft were turned back by bad weather in the Squamish area.
"They had the Buffalo and the Cormorant and the Buffalo was popping off flares to help direct the Cormorant in," said Wilcox. "That is what those lights were all about."