Tubing on the Chilliwack-Vedder River is a popular summer pastime but is quite dangerous according to Search and Rescue experts. (Paul Henderson/ Black Press file)

VIDEO: Near drowning captured on popular B.C. river

Search and Rescue manager says the popular pastime of floating in the summer is inherently dangerous

Every summer when the temperature gets hot enough, young people bring their tubes and inflatable pool toys – and usually beers – to float down the Chilliwack-Vedder River.

People cool off, enjoy the sun, have fun, and usually the day ends just fine.

But floating down this river with the massive amount of every-changing wood debris is incredibly dangerous, and there are countless incidents of people getting into trouble.

On July 15, someone posted a video of two people falling off a pool floatie and desperately hanging on to the wood logs. They ended up making it OK, but the person who posted it on Facebook, Connor Visagie, said they weren’t the only people to get into trouble.

“Seven people were caught under this log jam just on Sunday alone even after being flagged down and being told so get off your tube and go to the right,” he wrote.

Visagie said he spent hours on the river flagging people down and directing them to a safer route, even going so far as to make a sign.

For Chilliwack Search and Rescue (CSAR) search manager Doug Fraser the video is “scary,” “frustrating” and, “typical.”

“There are constant safety messages being promoted and it seems people continue to be ignorant of it or perhaps choose to ignore it thinking that the river is harmless,” Fraser said.

• RELATED: Woman dies in kayaking accident on Vedder River in Chilliwack

Fraser said CSAR may not be called out very often to rescue people in situations such as the one depicted in the video but those instances happen frequently.

“In most cases, people can self rescue or they have bystanders that come to their aid,” he said. “You just have to look at any hot summer day and you can count the number of people coming down the river.”

So what’s so dangerous about floating down the river?

First of all, the huge volume of wood in that river means there are countless opportunities to have what is essentially an inflatable toy popped by a branch.

Then there are the “strainers” or the “sweepers.” A sweeper is a single log that can knock someone off a tube, and a strainer is a collection of logs, sometimes including root balls, that catches tubes and floaties and people, forcing them under water.

Essentially there is no way to float down the river safely unless you are in a river-approved watercraft, with a life jacket, helmet and, hopefully, you have swift water awareness training, according to Fraser.

“It’s inherently dangerous,” Fraser said. “They are taking a significant risk every time they go out.”

He added that he’s not sure if the activity is becoming more or less common, but what is increasing is the sharing on social media of gatherings.

“Floating down the river has always been popular, but one thing that I would say that is definitely increasing, and it’s troubling, is advertised meetups or events to have a whole large group of people go for a float. That concerns me a great deal.”

For water safety information Fraser points to chilliwacksar.org or adventuresmart.ca. He said there are lots of places people can also get training as well, including Chilliwack-based Rescue Canada.

• RELATED: Body of young man who drowned in Chilliwack Lake recovered


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Feds announce $8.3M to deal with ‘ghost’ fishing gear in B.C. waters

Ghost gear accounts for up to 70 per cent of all macro-plastics in the ocean by weight

Residents oppose changes to parking at Port Alberni apartment unit

Tenants also say maintenance needs to be done before expansion should happen

QUINN’S QUIPS: Hawks’ nests halt logging in Alberni Valley Community Forest

Biologists will take two years to study nest site, says forest manager

City of Port Alberni receives $2M from community forest

AVCF hands over largest dividend cheque ever after successful year in 2019

Indigenous man behind complaint of BC Transplant’s alcohol abstinence policy has died

David Dennis, who is Nuu-chah-nulth, argued that six-month sobriety policy is a ‘lethal form of racism’

The pandemic is widening Canada’s workplace gender gap

Gender pay gap is incentivizing fathers to work while mothers watch children, a new B.C. study has found

Ex-Okanagan Mountie forfeits 20 days’ pay after sexual misconduct review

A former Vernon RCMP constable made sexual comments, grabbed genitals of male officer in two incidents 10 years ago

Man found dead on Okanagan trail identified as Hollywood actor

GoFundMe campaign launched for man found dead at summit of Spion Kop

3 people dead in Prince George motel fire

Fire personnel believe the blaze was suspicious although investigation in early stages

B.C. sets terms to review police, mental health, race relations

MLAs to recommend Police Act changes by May 2021

Almost 99% less land in B.C. burned this year compared to 2018

2018 was the worst year on record for wildfires

B.C. orders Coastal GasLink to stop pipeline construction near protected wetlands

The 670-kilometre pipeline is planned to transport natural gas from northeast B.C. to Kitimat

B.C. tent camps persist as hotels, housing bought for homeless

Current estimate 40 camps, homeless counts stalled by COVID-19

Most Read