Tubing on the Chilliwack-Vedder River is a popular summer pastime but is quite dangerous according to Search and Rescue experts. (Paul Henderson/ Black Press file)

VIDEO: Near drowning captured on popular B.C. river

Search and Rescue manager says the popular pastime of floating in the summer is inherently dangerous

Every summer when the temperature gets hot enough, young people bring their tubes and inflatable pool toys – and usually beers – to float down the Chilliwack-Vedder River.

People cool off, enjoy the sun, have fun, and usually the day ends just fine.

But floating down this river with the massive amount of every-changing wood debris is incredibly dangerous, and there are countless incidents of people getting into trouble.

On July 15, someone posted a video of two people falling off a pool floatie and desperately hanging on to the wood logs. They ended up making it OK, but the person who posted it on Facebook, Connor Visagie, said they weren’t the only people to get into trouble.

“Seven people were caught under this log jam just on Sunday alone even after being flagged down and being told so get off your tube and go to the right,” he wrote.

Visagie said he spent hours on the river flagging people down and directing them to a safer route, even going so far as to make a sign.

For Chilliwack Search and Rescue (CSAR) search manager Doug Fraser the video is “scary,” “frustrating” and, “typical.”

“There are constant safety messages being promoted and it seems people continue to be ignorant of it or perhaps choose to ignore it thinking that the river is harmless,” Fraser said.

• RELATED: Woman dies in kayaking accident on Vedder River in Chilliwack

Fraser said CSAR may not be called out very often to rescue people in situations such as the one depicted in the video but those instances happen frequently.

“In most cases, people can self rescue or they have bystanders that come to their aid,” he said. “You just have to look at any hot summer day and you can count the number of people coming down the river.”

So what’s so dangerous about floating down the river?

First of all, the huge volume of wood in that river means there are countless opportunities to have what is essentially an inflatable toy popped by a branch.

Then there are the “strainers” or the “sweepers.” A sweeper is a single log that can knock someone off a tube, and a strainer is a collection of logs, sometimes including root balls, that catches tubes and floaties and people, forcing them under water.

Essentially there is no way to float down the river safely unless you are in a river-approved watercraft, with a life jacket, helmet and, hopefully, you have swift water awareness training, according to Fraser.

“It’s inherently dangerous,” Fraser said. “They are taking a significant risk every time they go out.”

He added that he’s not sure if the activity is becoming more or less common, but what is increasing is the sharing on social media of gatherings.

“Floating down the river has always been popular, but one thing that I would say that is definitely increasing, and it’s troubling, is advertised meetups or events to have a whole large group of people go for a float. That concerns me a great deal.”

For water safety information Fraser points to chilliwacksar.org or adventuresmart.ca. He said there are lots of places people can also get training as well, including Chilliwack-based Rescue Canada.

• RELATED: Body of young man who drowned in Chilliwack Lake recovered


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

No architect for Langford building ruled ‘unreasonable’ by B.C. Supreme Court

Legal action brought against City in 2019 for permit issued on Hoffman Avenue building

Colwood drive-thru window smashed after suspect receives burger without mustard

Wendy’s staff call police after man allegedly rips Plexiglas barrier off window

Pauquachin First Nation calls on North Saanich to help restore shellfish in Coles Bay

The nation identifies ‘residential onsite septic systems’ as one of sources of contamination

Pool deck turns patio as Saanich restaurant cooks up creative outdoor seating options

District supports local businesses such as The Lakes Restaurant in creating seating

Victoria police searching for suspect after baseball bat assault

Man assaulted in the 900-block of Pandora Avenue

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

Search and rescue crews help locate 62-year-old Nanoose Bay mountain biker

RCMP: Man got lost on trail and did right thing by calling for assistance

B.C. ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Most Read