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Even at low levels, waterways pose a risk

SAR training session - File photo
SAR training session
— image credit: File photo

As the summer temperature climbs, so does the number of recreational water users in the Comox Valley.

Despite low water levels this season, Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue manager is warning the public to remain diligent when using the local waterways.

“While the flow isn’t necessarily a problem, the problems happen because the water is low,” explained Paul Berry, information officer/SAR manager. “The hazards become more of an issue … such as foot entrapments, rocks, undercuts, and in popular swimming and diving spots, spinal injuries.”

Berry said for the past two weeks, CVGSAR has been training in swift water rescue in conjunction with the Courtenay Fire Department as part of their annual training.

He noted the team looks at the rivers and waterways in the Comox Valley, how they change and what is required of members when a rescue is needed.

“During any rescue, all members of the team are required. Those trained in swift water rescue will be in the water but you still need a significant amount of people to assist,” he added.

Berry said GSAR trains with the fire department because generally they are the first ones on the scene when an incident occurs.

“We want to share with them our knowledge of our swift water plans, on how we locate the individual, maintain communication, have a team tasked to be in the water, and work with them while they could be up or down stream with throw bags,” he explained, adding the Puntledge River has particularly challenging areas with hazards in the river.

Last July, a man in his mid-40s got separated from his group tubing down the Puntledge River and died, and both the fire department and CVGSAR were called to other rescues on the Tsolum and other Valley rivers.

Berry encourages those who plan on using the rivers for tubing or any other recreational activity to take simple steps in order to be prepared for the unexpected.

“If you’re inexperienced with a river, go out with someone who is familiar with the water. If you’re tubing, don’t put your foot down in a heavy current, and don’t feel embarrassed about wearing a PFD. Always avoid consuming alcohol.”

For more information about CVGSAR, visit their Facebook page or cvgsar.com.

photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

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