Two volunteers killed in B.C. rescue training exercise
Published Monday, June 4, 2012 9:19PM EDT
Two volunteers on a search and rescue training exercise died Sunday morning after the zodiac they were in capsized on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast.
The incident occurred just before noon on the Skokumchuk rapids, about 60 kilometres north of Sechelt, B.C.
Four members of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue were heading through the rapids when their rigid-hull inflatable boat overturned.
The two deceased victims, both women, were trapped underneath the vessel and were pronounced dead around 1:15 p.m. local time.
"This time of the year the rapids are particularly robust, very vigorous, but it's also the season where the volumes of water are at their extremes," CTV BC's Penny Daflos said Monday.
"It's a very unique area and you just can't predict it if you're not familiar with the area," she told CTV News Channel.
Two men managed to escape, one with serious leg injuries, with the help of the crew of a nearby vessel, Daflos said.
People on other vessels at the scene tried to help the two trapped women, but couldn't get the boat upright again in the raging water, she said.
"They couldn't flip the boat over to get to them and they ended up pulling it to a nearby dock where they used a crane," Daflos said.
"But it was simply too late."
The identities of the deceased women haven't been released, but both were residents of Sechelt, police said.
The rapids are in a very remote region of the Sunshine Coast, Daflos added.
The boat was tied up at a local dock Sunday afternoon as members of the Canadian Transportation Safety Board were on their way to investigate.
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.
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.