Kimberley SAR warn of river dangers heading into last weeks of summer

Kimberley SAR warn of river dangers heading into last weeks of summer

Recent incidents prompt warnings for extra caution and preparedness

With summer offering the possibilies of great outdoor recreation, a swiftwater manager with Kimberley Search and Rescue would like to extend a message of caution for any who plan to do some rafting or other river activities.

“The St. Mary’s River is not the lazy river everyone thinks it is,” they said.

“The flow level is definitely higher than it normally would be at this time of the year in August. We had snow levels that were 119 per cent above average, and then of course with the cool spring, melting has been delayed and there’s still snow in the alpine, so it’s still coming down this year and the river is cold and quite a bit higher.”

Part of what tricks people into believing the river is relatively lazy, they added, is that there are nice smooth sections where there’s no boils or white water, and then areas that appear shallow due to visible sandbars and rocks, however it is the outer area where the flow is greatest and the water deepest.

“And that’s, I think, where people take it for granted and don’t recognize the danger in that outer flow. And that flow is where it will take somebody, because that is the primary flow.”

This isn’t to say that people should avoid river activities all together. Our source from SAR has some helpful advice for anyone thinking about going on the river this weekend.

“What you need to do is some research on the river you’re going to go rafting on,” they said. “Talk to the local raft companies because they will know where the log jams are. And they will be able to say, for example, ‘you know what do not a good idea unless you’re super experienced.’”

Bringing a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) might go without saying, but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

“Definitely PFDs, oh my gosh,” they said. “People drown so often because they don’t have PFDs even in the rivers.”

“We have seen groups of people, adults and children, floating down both the Kootenay and the St. Mary’s and only some have PFDs and it freaks us out completely, it really does.”

“Our team unfortunately, we’re exhausted and we’re sad because we’re picking up people, deceased people, out of the rivers.”

SAR’s calls for service are up at least 50 per cent, if not more, according to our source, with many of them coming from people from out of town.

Unfortunately, there have been several fatalities in recent weeks.

There was the Edmonton man who attempted to rescue his dog and drown in the Kootenay River on July 30.

READ MORE: Search suspended for man missing in Kootenay River near Canal Flats

There was the body removed from the St. Mary’s River on August 3 that SAR assisted RCMP with.

READ MORE: Incident near St. Mary’s bridge involves deceased person: RCMP

There was also the person from out of town who died in a mountain biking accident on Bootleg Mountain in July.

READ MORE: RCMP confirm fatality in Bootleg Mountain biking accident.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, SAR urged the public to use extra caution when entering the bush to ease the burdon on them and our hospitals.

“I think early on [the message of stay home was headed] and now we’re into the hot summer everybody wants to get out and for the most part are sticking around home,” our source from SAR said. “I was camping and it was mostly locals. But like I said, we’ve got people coming in who are trying to social distance, they’re trying to maintain that and they’re headed out into the bush and the rivers and the mountains here are scary dangerous.”

READ MORE: SAR B.C. urge caution during COVID-19 pandemic

They also recommended that before people plan a trip to check their search and rescue prevention website

Another strategy is to contact local rafting or fishing guide companies.

“They are happy to talk to people and let them know where to go, where not to go, the conditions, the levels of the river, they will definitely talk to people.”

One could even just post on something like the Kimberley Cork Board on Facebook, and ask if anyone knows about river or trail conditions.

The source added that before SAR even starts conducting a swift water operation, one of the first things they’ll do is get a helicopter in the air to do a water hazard assessment.

“We need eyes on to find out where the hazards are and that’s before we put a team in the water,” they said. “Unless it’s something that’s right in front of us, but if we have to do a search on the river or anything like that, we do a hazard assessment quickly because conditions change and we have lots of people who are on our rivers on a regular basis but like I said even us we don’t take that chance.”

The Bulletin will also have another story next week with a member of SAR, who got into some trouble rafting on the river last week.

READ MORE: Hometown heroes: Search and Rescue president Peter Reid

READ MORE: With 18 drowning deaths in B.C. this year, advocates urge caution during summer


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

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


Kimberley SAR warn of river dangers heading into last weeks of summer

Just Posted

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

Wolf photo by Brian Hay
2020 hunting season review and wildlife update: Part III

This is Part III of a three-part series by F.J. Hurtak, looking at the issues of the 2020 hunting and wildlife management season

It happened this week in 1914

Jan. 10 - 16: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the newspapers at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Piling in place along Innis Avenue in Cranbrook, part of the new Broadstreet Properties development. David Humphrey photo
Innis Avenue to close to all traffic starting January 18

Avenue facing new development will be closed from Monday, Jan. 18 to Thursday, Jan. 21, for sewer connection

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

A COVID-19 outbreak at Vernon's Heritage Square long-term care home has claimed seven people. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Two more COVID-19 deaths at Vernon care home

Heritage Square has now lost seven people due to the outbreak

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Most Read