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BC closer to common swiftwater standards

A coroner
A coroner's jury called for uniform swift water training standards in BC after the drowning of Nelson search volunteer Sheilah Sweatman in the Goat River (pictured above) in 2011.
— image credit: Nelson Star file photo

A year after a coroner’s inquest into the death of Nelson Search and Rescue volunteer Sheilah Sweatman, one of the jury’s key recommendations has yet to be implemented — but an official says it should be soon.

BC Search and Rescue president Don Bindon told 103.5 The Bridge they are close to seeing uniform swiftwater training standards adopted in this province.

“We’ve made considerable headway,” he said. “We’ve had tremendous cooperation from the providers. We weren’t sure if we would run into any hurdles, but we’ve not found any.”

Sweatman, 29, drowned in the Goat River near Creston on June 29, 2011 while trying to recover a submerged vehicle. Her leg got caught on a steel cable and she was pulled into the water.

Following a week-long inquest in November 2012, the jury made nine recommendations, including that Emergency Management BC and BC Search and Rescue “develop universal standards for swiftwater rescue and recovery training to ensure consistent language and training applications.”

Bindon says his organization considered this their top priority, but also recognized it would take some time and effort to get the three or four private training providers to agree on a single set of standards.

“There is more than one course standard in North America, but we were looking to adopt one,” he said. “We allowed [the providers] to come to conclusions that best suited them and were only going to implement a required standard if they couldn’t agree.”

But Bindon says it appears the providers are close to reaching a consensus and once implemented, lesson plans should be so similar that they achieve the same outcomes — any swiftwater volunteer will be able to work with another regardless of where they received their training.

Bindon expects a further update in the next few weeks. BC Search and Rescue will discuss the status of all the jury’s recommendations at a meeting December 19.

“Everyone involved in the process is committed to making sure we do the best we can to implement each and every one of them,” he said.

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