Courtenay River rescue ends with no injuries

First responders in the Comox Valley region of British Columbia said a rescue carried out on Tuesday morning was one of the most complicated they had ever had to undertake and certainly involved the largest number of rescued subjects.

The drama began shortly after 10:30 a.m. when two women from Parksville, British Columbia, were kayaking along the Courtenay River. One of the kayakers reportedly rolled over and then straightened up before she and another kayaker became trapped against logs in the river.

Dan Walden was with five other people paddling an outrigger canoe on the river when they heard the women calling for help.

“We thought we’d better turn around, investigate and we went around,” he said.

The group paddled out to help the kayakers before they ran into trouble themselves.

“Of course you want to see what’s going on or help if you can, and the front of our boat got caught in an eddy and swept us away, and there was a snag that got us stuck,” Walden said.

The outrigger part of the canoe got stuck under one of the logs, trapping the six people in the canoe along with the other two women.

“Yes, we tried, of course, [to get free] initially,” Walden said.

“When you get stuck, you try and it doesn’t work, so we had to wait for search and rescue,” he said.

First responders were called around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. (CTV News)

The Courtenay Fire Department was the first on the scene, in the Courtenay Airpark area.

Firefighters saw the eight paddlers pinned against the logs, according to Deputy Fire Chief Jonathan Welsh.

“Eight people was probably the first for that number,” he said. “We had a lot of rescues here in the river, but that amount to manage was definitely something to come up with for ideas.”

Firefighters were located along the river bank to set up a containment area should any of the boaters encounter further difficulties.

“We had alternate containment areas where if anything were to happen in that area there was a contingent plan to help rescue people who might have fallen off the boat, including the [search and rescue] groups,” Welsh said.

Members of Comox Valley Search and Rescue arrived on the scene and used a motorized river boat to extract the two kayakers and then three members from the canoe before it became light enough to dislodge.

First responders were called around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. (CTV News)

The research team often warns the public about the dangers of wood debris in area rivers, as does Adventure Smart BC through its online programs.

“It’s lower than we’ve ever had to pull logs, but someone’s going to have to come and cut these things because they seem to be in a really bad position to trap people,” said Mike Fournier, Member Comox Valley Search and Rescue.

The incident ended in just under three hours with no injuries.