Witnesses at the scene of a weekend drowning on Kootenay River told officials they lost sight of the 64-year-old male victim and the next time they saw him he was under deep water.
Nelson RCMP received a call at approximately 4:22 p.m. Saturday to report a possible drowning at lower Marsden Road, just west of the Taghum Bridge. Several people had gathered on a rock outcropping known as Coyote Point to cool off in the slow moving river.
Witnesses told police that the man dove into the river for a swim, surfaced, and then swam out of sight. When other members of his party noticed he did not come to shore they conducted an extensive search of the area. They found him under about 3.6 metres of water in an area not accessible.
RCMP and the BC Ambulance Service were first on the scene, but without aid of a boat were unable to get to the man. Listening to the scanner at the Beasley Fire Hall, members of that volunteer crew dispatched their new Sea Doos and arrived on scene shortly after police.
“I just grabbed our reach pole and managed to hook his shorts and pull him right to the surface,” said Beasley fire chief Al Craft. “Shore was only a few feet away so the ambulance were all set up to take him.”
CPR was started on the rocks and once the Nelson Search and Rescue boat arrived the victim was transferred and brought to Nelson via the river where paramedics continued to attempt resuscitation. The boat was met at the city wharf by ambulance and the victim was transported to Kootenay Lake Hospital. Efforts to revive the man were ultimately unsuccessful.
The BC Coroners Service is now taking the lead on the investigation into the death. The name of victim has not been released.
Though the outcome was tragic, Craft said the coordinated effort was handled as well as possible.
“We train together and it all worked well,” said Craft.
The Beasley Fire Department purchased the Sea Doos for this type of operation. The two water craft and gear cost $36,000 and were made possible by a BC Gaming Commission Grant.
“They are fast and maneuverable so you can cover a lot territory,” Craft said of the resource that helped in the Saturday effort.
Police are reminding the public that due to unseasonably high waters and rapid currents on the Kootenay River that extreme caution must be taken when swimming in these areas.
• Rescue crews were also busy early Friday afternoon when a tourist broke her leg about one kilometre up the Pulpit Rock trail. The Nelson Search and Rescue team was called in to assist in the rescue. The local search team helped package the woman for a long-line transport across the river to the Nelson airport. Once at the airport she was taken to Kootenay Lake Hospital.