The Shuswap’s Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue crew saw an active summer, responding to 38 call outs while achieving four station goals.
Station #106 leader Rob Sutherland said the 38 missions during this year’s boating season varied from vessels adrift to boat collisions to accidents resulting in injury.
The volunteer organization’s first outing was in May, in response to a report of missing persons – two individuals in the Tappen area, attempting to get around a mudslide by rowboat. It was later found the individuals hadn’t left and the search by the RCMSAR crew was called off.
One person died of a heart attack while boating near the Narrows, reports Sutherland, while three other missions were in response to drug overdoses.
“Some allergies to wasp stings and nuts resulted in the use of the BCAS Air Ambulance being involved,” said Sutherland. “Lucky there were not more deaths as a result of these incidents.”
Physical injuries also occurred on the water. In one incident, a man received deep lacerations to his legs from a houseboat propeller after sliding down the slide before the craft was stopped on shore. In another incident, a woman’s finger was cut off after being caught in a door. One man received head and wrist injuries after jumping off the top deck of a houseboat without looking, and landing in the bow of a pleasure craft tied to the houseboat. Another man received multiple lacerations after walking off the top deck of a houseboat in his sleep.
Injuries were also suffered during the use of float tubes and Sea-Doos. In one incident, a female was run over by a Sea-Doo resulting in a head injury; a man jumped off a houseboat onto a floating toy and broke his ankle; one woman received neck and back injuries after the tube she was on collided with another woman on a tube being pulled by the same vessel; another woman on a tube was towed into rocks, resulting in hip, back and shoulder injuries.
Sutherland notes RCMSAR volunteers and BC Ambulance Service paramedics have worked together for the past six seasons responding to incidents year-round, dispatched through 911 for medical cases as well as through the Emergency Co-ordination Centre of the Emergency Measures British Columbia out of Kamloops or Victoria for support to the RCMP and other services.
“The RCMSAR members are all volunteers and are supported financially through donations from local businesses, local societies and associations and private donations as well as grants largely from the BC Lottery,” said Sutherland.
In addition to on-water missions, Sutherland said Station 106 achieved all four of its goals set for the year. Two involved accident prevention and boating safety, including increasing the availability of the organization’s PFD (personal floatation device) loaner kiosks in the Shuswap. In April and May, RCMSAR volunteers delivered a safety program to school children in Grades 1 and 2 and, in August, they provided free pleasure craft compliance checks, providing boaters the opportunity to have their boats and safety equipment checked before they head out on the lake.
Another goal was the acquisition of a “new-to-us” 40-foot, 2007 Titan Rigid Hulled Inflatable “Fast Response Vessel”.
“This rescue vessel served the RCMSAR Station in the Victoria area for the last 10 years and is 100 per cent suited for the Shuswap,” said Sutherland. “Over the winter, pending approval of a grant application through BC Gaming, the vessel will be reconfigured and outfitted with cabinets for medical supplies and complete the remaining inspection and repairs for its 10-year refit that was started in Sydney at the original manufacturer’s facilities.”
Three Station 106 members undertook a basic jet-drive propulsion course to run the new vessel.
“The vessel’s 880-horsepower engines propel it down the lake at its maximum speed of 50 m/ph, resulting in a response time from Sicamous approximately 35 per cent less than our existing boat. Its design also enhances our capability to respond in the worst of weather,” explained Sutherland.
Looking ahead, future goals, said Sutherland, will be dependent on future donations.
“We want to expand our contribution to the Shuswap and the Interior… and establish a Marine Training Centre that would offer marine-related courses for both commercial and pleasure craft operators,” said Sutherland. “The facilities would also, obviously, train our own station members. Everything from basic to advanced boat operator training and radar navigation, to marine first aid to radio operator certifications and possibly basic maintenance courses.
“Presently these courses, all certified by Transport Canada, are only offered at the Coast or on Vancouver Island, and remain… a major hurdle for local residents and businesses to attend. It is expected to cost in the area of $500,000, which would include a two-bay boat house for our rescue vessels, a mission briefing and ready room for our incident response members and a state-of-the-art lecture and training facility upstairs.”
Sutherland said these are long-term goals in their early stages of planning, “but the vision is there to bring this facility to Sicamous.”
A feasibility study is expected to be completed over the next six months or so.
“There is a lot to plan for with the major hurdle being funding,” said Sutherland. “Support from the Shuswap communities, local businesses and private donations, as well as grant applications all need to be sorted out.”