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Baby on Board: Coast Guard helps with delivery while at sea near Prince Rupert

Canadian Coast Guard Florencia Bay crew assisted in birth at sea
Justus Sankey and Alice Clifton with eight-week-old baby Willow on Nov 9, born on a coast guard search and rescue vessel on waters outside of Prince Rupert aug. 27. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Baby delivery can be added to the list of services the Canadian Coast Guard helps with after the Search and Rescue Crew of the vessel Florencia Bay assisted with the birth of a baby girl at sea outside Prince Rupert.

The Canadian Coast Guard responds to calls for assistance 365 days a year, the organization said earlier this moth.

“On an average day, the Canadian Coast Guard coordinates the response to 19 search and rescue incidents, responds to 13 search and rescue incidents, assisting 43 people and saving 13 lives.”

The family of baby Willow Sankey-Clifton, now eight weeks old, spoke with The Northern View at the dedication ceremony of the new Coast Guard Search and Rescue vessel McIntyre Bay on Nov. 9.

Justus Sankey, father of Willow, was full of praise and admiration for the emergency responder teams who carried his family across the waves from Lax Kw’alaams and then on to the hospital.

“They were awesome. They packed us over 200 feet up a steep ramp at low tide with [Alice] and the baby. They got us across the water safely. They were great.”

The night of Aug. 27 the Coast Guard crew made up of Joey Banys, Brehnen Rowell, Christie Corbett and Captain Jeff McDonald transported BC Emergency Health Service attendants to Tuck Inlet for the emergency call.

A baby girl entered the world quickly after the first responder crews were called to Lax Kw’alaams to aide mom-to-be Alice Clifton when contractions started rapidly and unexpectedly.

Clifton had just worked her last shift at the fish plant in the remote community the day before, on Aug. 26 to start her maternity leave. She was looking forward to some downtown time in preparation for her expected bundle of joy.

She had put her two young children to bed and was getting ready for a restful night when the adventures started.

“I started getting contractions … they were getting worse. I went to the clinic and they were getting stronger,” Clifton said.

“We were waiting to see if they were going to send me on the medivac. But that wasn’t available. So they sent the Florencia Bay.”

She said it seemed like a couple of hours before the rescue ship arrived and they were all ready to go waiting on the dock when the ship arrived.

“I walked on board and we were on there for about 15-20 minutes when I felt like I needed to push.”

Rescue specialist Christie Corbett assisted in the special delivery with the Prince Rupert city lights in their sights. The CCG members assisted BC Emergency Health crews to carry mom and baby up the dock to dry land.

“It was pretty intense,” Clifton said. “There was nothing for the pain … It was a pretty crazy ordeal. It was out of this world.”

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