Courtenay business owner and paramedic Bill Coltart received the Silver Medal of Merit on Saturday during the Lifesavings Society’s Commonwealth Honour and Rescue Awards.
The society recognized volunteer commitment and rescue bravery at the 101st awards ceremony at the Hotel Vancouver. This year’s awards were presented by Deputy Mayor Tony Tang of Vancouver.
It was a July evening when Coltart and Calgarian Iain Kenny of Pacific Pro Dive departed the marina in Comox after cleaning up their vessel from a long day of charters. Their cell phone rang and a friend had indicated that there was a mayday call in the area and inquired if they were still on the water.
They were told that a boat was taking on water and in danger of sinking off the west coast of Hornby Island. Bill and Iain quickly returned to the marina, reloaded their boat and headed toward the location while donning drysuits in case they had to enter the water.
They arrived in about 20 minutes to find an old commercial fishing boat half submerged and listing dangerously at a 45-degree angle. Huddled on the stern wearing lifejackets were a mother and father with their three children ranging in age from about three to 12 years.
Bill and Iain manoeuvred their vessel alongside and carefully brought each of the family members aboard their vessel to warm them and treat them for shock. They were uninjured and avoided entering the water thanks to the quick response of their rescuers.
Soon after, members of the French Creek Coast Guard station and the Comox-based Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue team were on-site and the family was turned over to them and taken ashore for further medical attention.
It was later learned that the victims were unable to use their marine radio due to onboard flooding, but were fortunate to be in an area having cell phone service, so they called 911.
They had also fired flares only seen by the BC Ferry Tanaka that runs between Denman and Hornby Islands, which then deployed a rescue boat to assist. The 45-year-old fishing vessel was reported to have been fully submerged and lost later that evening.
— Lifesavings Society