The RCMSAR vessel Tolonen returns from an emergency call on June 23. Due to the high lake level the CP Rail bridge must be opened each time the boat leaves for a call on Shuswap Lake. (Photo contributed)

Sicamous marine search and rescue responds to woman injured on houseboat, two other emergencies

High water and floating debris create obstacles for marine rescue volunteers

After a safe and slow start to the 2020 boating season, the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue station on Shuswap Lake responded to three emergency calls in recent days including two on June 23.

The rescue boat received a medical call shortly after 5 a.m. on Saturday, June 13 to assist a woman experiencing severe abdominal pain at the Tiilis Landing campsite. After picking up a B.C. Ambulance crew, the RCMSAR crew went to the campsite and helped the woman, who struggled to stand or walk on her own, to the boat. Station Leader Fred Banham said the woman was safely on shore and in the waiting ambulance by around 7:15 a.m.

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On June 23, the RCMSAR station was called for another medical emergency at 12:04 a.m. Banham said a woman on a houseboat had fallen down a steep stairway and hit her head on the way down. The other people on board suspected she may have suffered a spinal injury and so kept her lying on the deck until the RCMSAR and ambulance crew arrived.

After carefully transferring her from the houseboat to the RCMSAR vessel, the emergency crews had the injured woman back to shore by 2:20 a.m.

Later that day about 2:30 p.m., the RCMSAR boat was called again to help three young men who were stuck on the swim dock at the Sicamous Beach Park. Banham said one of the men was not a strong swimmer and, after struggling against the cold water and the strong current coming from the Sicamous channel, he could not make it back to shore. The RCMSAR boat, which is docked only 100 metres away in the channel, was able to pick the men up off the dock and take them to shore. Banham said they were treated for possible hypothermia by warming them up in the sheltered area under the rescue boat’s deck.

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Banham said the rescue shows the hazards caused by cold water and fast flowing creeks, rivers and channels. The creeks and rivers have flushed lots of debris into the lake.

Banham said during recent night rescues the RCMSAR boat has been reliant on its forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera for navigating around the debris.

Due to the high lake level, the CP Rail Bridge must be opened each time the rescue boat has to respond to a call on Shuswap Lake. Banham said the railway staff have been very helpful; the bridge tenders have rushed from their homes in the middle of the night or early in the morning to move the rotating bridge out of the way.

Banham said in one case the tender had the bridge open before the RCMSAR and ambulance crews were ready to leave the dock.

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