Retiring Coast Guard officer slams Kitsilano base closure
Coast Guard employees have been warned against publicly criticizing the closing of the Kitsilano base, but retiring officer Gerry Moores says he has nothing to lose.
Moores spoke out about the pending closure to CTV News Friday, his last day on the job after 36 years of service.
“Now I can come out with a vengeance. It’s the time the story be told,” he said.
Just hours earlier, Moores and his teammates executed a rescue under the Granville Street Bridge – one he argues would have been impossible without the Kitsilano base.
The Coast Guard was called to action at 8:05 a.m. after an Aquabus operator spotted a distressed man struggling in the water. Within minutes, members were speeding toward the scene; by 8:10, they had arrived.
“The Aquabus operator was holding onto the man’s collar, and he was very obviously injured,” Moores said.
“We got him aboard our inflatable boat, the two rescue specialists whom we have at the station – professionally trained first aiders –stabilized the man as best they could.”
The members called for an ambulance to meet them as they sped back to the shore, and roughly 27 minutes after the rescue call was received, the patient was en route to hospital.
He remained in critical condition on Friday evening.
Without the Coast Guard base, Moores estimates it would have taken about 30 minutes just for first responders to reach the scene.
“We do our best to give them their best chance, by being here quickly and offering the type of profession help that resides at this station,” Moores said.
“I don’t think anyone can look at somebody who’s desperately struggling for his life without feeling it’s good we’re here.”
The Kitsilano base is considered the busiest in Canada, and responds to more than 350 calls annually.
But its days are numbered. In May, the base is being closed, along with three B.C. Coast Guard communications centres, due to budget cuts at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The federal government has defended the decision, and pledged $100,000 to help pay for a new hovercraft at the Sea Island Coast Guard station in Richmond and help fund the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, a volunteer organization.
But with the Kitsilano base gone, CTV News has learned most Vancouver distress calls will be directed to an auxiliary station located near the Ironworkers Second Narrows Bridge at Lynnwood Marina.
Sources say it would take roughly 25 minutes to reach the waters under the Granville Street Bridge from that location.
Moores said he plans to spend his retirement fighting the Kitsilano closure, a cost-cutting decision he believes will ultimately cost lives.
“What is the value of the saving of a life? What is the value of saving someone’s livelihood?” he said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee