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Two SAR volunteers dead after boating accident (3 June 2012)


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By: The Canadian Press

Date: Sunday Jun. 3, 2012 8:20 PM PT

Two search and rescue volunteers have died after a boating accident on a dangerous set of rapids on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast.

The two women died late Sunday morning on the Skokumchuck rapids, about 60 kilometres north of Sechelt., B.C.

The RCMP said four members of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue were heading through the rapids in a boat when the accident occurred.

"We've since learned that two of the occupants passed away as a result of the accident," said RCMP Sgt. Mike McCarthy.

Capt. Annie Djiotsa, a spokeswoman for the Royal Canadian Navy, said the victims and the two survivors -- both men -- were in a rigid hull inflatable boat when it overturned.

The rescuers who pulled the men to safety were members of the same volunteer organization and were in a nearby boat, said McCarthy.

The two victims were residents of Sechelt and their bodies have been removed from the scene, said McCarthy.

According to a Navy media release, the bodies of the deceased were found under the hull of the capsized boat, and the two volunteers were pronounced dead at about 1:15 p.m.

The boat was tied up at a local dock Sunday afternoon, and members of the Transportation Safety Board of Canada were headed to the scene to investigate, McCarthy said.

Peter Sly, fire chief of the Egmont and District Volunteer Fire Department, said he watched the rescue from his home and saw several boats trying to respond to the overturned inflatable.

Sly said the rescue lasted more than two hours and drew the Canadian Coast Guard vessel Cape Caution, a Buffalo aircraft, Cormorant helicopter, members of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue from Pender Harbour, B.C., as well as local boats.

Sly said the area can become dangerous, especially when tides as large as 5.5 metres rush through the narrows of the local inlet, forming waves and whirlpools.

"Several people have lost their lives over the years in the rapids," he said.

Keith Ashfield, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, said he was saddened by the deaths and offered his condolences to the victims' families, friends and crew members.

"As search and rescue partners, they're there to protect Canadians on the water, the Canadian Coast Guard shares the pain of this tragic loss," he said in a statement.

Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, formerly known as the Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary, is a volunteer organization with more than 1,000 members and stations in 46 B.C. communities.

The organization said it responded to 700 missions in 2011 and helped more than 850 people.
When I first saw this story, I was curious whether they were on training, on a SAR mission, on personal recreation -?  Not that it makes the loss harder or easier to bear - just wondering what led them to be on the river that day.  This must have been very traumatic for all who were there, working on the rescue or watching it. 

I was impressed to read of the size of the Royal Canadian Marine Search & Rescue org.  So many people stand ready to keep us safe, across the country & around the world, in ways that we're not even aware of.  My condolences.    :salute:
It can be a nasty place, I suspect they tried to climb a standing wave which has caused other zodiacs to flip (Hellsgate as I recall). Going by the video footage the vessel was equipped with a self-righting device, the device is on top of the cage on the rear and in the footage has not been activated. there is an activation cord that leads down to the keel area at the stern and part of the IRB course, crew are taught to right the vessel using this. However in the turbulent waters, the standard life jacket may not have provide enough buoyancy. Saltwater lifejackets give 15lbs, but whitewater jackets give 25lbs.

Very sad and condolences to the families. The Coast Guard has been fortunate with only two fatalities on this coast  up to now.