By J.W. Schnarr
A dramatic water rescue could have ended in tragedy if not for the combined effort of the Lomond and area fire departments as well as Taber/Vauxhall RCMP, and had police reminding people that personal flotation devices save lives.
Sunday night, just after 10 p.m., emergency responders received word that two men were in a canoe when it capsized in Badger Lake, located northwest of Enchant in Vulcan County.
Cst. Jason Wierenga said the two men, in their 30s, from the Calgary area, had been fishing in their new canoe for only 20 minutes when they were hit with a wave that caused the boat to capsize. One of the men was wearing a flotation device, and the other was not, though a second device was in the boat.
“He said they watched it float away,” said Wierenga.
The man without a device elected to stay with the capsized canoe, and the other man swam for shore. It was not until after 10 p.m. that the emergency call came through, however.
“By that time, the man had been in the water for six hours,” said Wierenga.
Cst. Justin Buit was part of the water rescue crew, which included a number of volunteer firefighters. The crew used a FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) device, a tool that looks for heat signatures.
“We can use it for night vision,” Buit said.
Buit said the rescue crew discovered a tackle box in the water, but were unable to find the canoe.
“We were just going along, and we could kind of hear someone yelling,” said Buit, who noted rescuers were unsure at first if the sounds were coming from the shore or in the water. They decided to cut their engines, and that is when they found the man treading water out in front of the boat. This discovery was made at about 1 a.m., meaning the man had spent nearly 9 hours in the water.
Wierenga said the event highlights the need for anyone out on Alberta’s lakes and waterways to practice good boat safety, and to wear their personal flotation devices.
He noted Badger Lake is considered a smaller lake in the area, and accidents can happen anywhere.
“It happens in small lakes as well,” he said.
Buit said another important safety practice people should get into the habit of doing involves informing someone before heading out on an excursion.
“It’s important to plan ahead,” he said. “Let someone know, and tell them your expected time of return as well.”
“Follow general boat safety guidelines,” Wierenga added. “Have a (personal flotation device) and wear it. A person almost lost his life because he wasn’t wearing his.”
Wierenga had glowing praise for members of the Lomond and area fire departments for the size of their response (more than 20 members) and for their quick-thinking actions.
“We have to thank those Lomond and other fire departments who responded,” he said. “And we’re grateful for the speed at which EMS on scene took over once (the missing man) was brought in.”
“We’re also very thankful of the outcome,” he added. “It could have been quite different.”