First responders pulled several people from the Campbell River on Tuesday afternoon after their flotation devices became caught on the supports of a bridge.
No injuries were reported in the operation, which brought out police, fire and ambulance services, along with the Campbell River Search and Rescue (CRSAR), who deployed their swift-water team.
At least two or three different small flotation devices, including a small kayak, were tethered together when they became entangled around the northernmost piling of the “logging bridge” on Hwy. 28, said CRSAR’s Tim Strange.
“They were wrapped around the piling, basically stuck in the current,” said Strange.
Members of the rescue crew tossed ropes to people in the boats closest to shore, and the trapped boaters held onto the ropes as the river current “swung them into the bank,” in a kind of pendulum effect.
One inflatable raft containing a small child remained on the far side of the piling.
Rescuers cut the rope that was holding that raft, which began floating downriver, as a member of the search and rescue crew held on.
Throw-ropes were quickly tossed to the raft as it floated away, and the child was retrieved from the raft.
“One of our members was able to stay with the raft there until they were secure,” said Strange. “He was basically going to float down the river as far as he needed … until they were secure, one way or the other.”
Several young people were huddled in bathing suits on the north side of the river as the Mirror arrived on the scene. They may have gotten to shore on their own, said Strange.
“I can’t tell you how many people were able to make it to shore by themselves, but there were at least five or six people that were assisted to shore by our members,” he said.
Many onlookers watched the scene unfold, including Campbell River resident Reba Ferguson, who said that none of the young people trapped under the bridge were wearing life jackets.
“The amazing officer that’s down there has provided them with life jackets,” she said, as she praised the first responders for their efforts.
“I think they’ve done an incredible, incredible job,” she said. “This could’ve turned out a lot worse.”
Staff Sergeant Troy Beauregard of the Campbell River RCMP said they were able to lower personal flotation devices and other equipment to the rafters.
Following the rescue, CRSAR posted some tips on the group’s website about staying safe while travelling on water, such as wearing life jackets, dressing appropriately and carrying a whistle or other sound signalling device.
The post also urged boaters to “never tie boats up together when travelling on rivers” to avoid getting tangled in trees, bridges or other objects.