Training flight turns into rescue mission after boaters capsize off B.C. island
A pair of boaters and their dog were fortunate to survive after capsizing off Texada Island and spending 45 minutes in the water Thursday afternoon.
Rescuers from the Royal Canadian Air Force's 442 Squadron in Comox received a call about the incident around 3 p.m., according to Lt. Col. Jean LeRoux, the squadron's commanding officer.
LeRoux said the two people on board were a man and his 87-year-old father, who became "very hypothermic" as the boat drifted toward the shore.
The squadron deployed the cormorant helicopter that was on standby for search and rescue missions in Comox, but it wasn't the first aircraft to make it to the scene.
"I think what was special in this rescue (is that) we also had one of our school helicopters … they were very close to the actually distress, the situation," LeRoux said.
The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Victoria called on that training helicopter to respond, as well, the commanding officer said.
"Just like any other RCAF asset, (the JRCC) can redirect them to emergency situations," LeRoux said.
Sgt. Simon Jean was the flight engineer on the school helicopter. He said the JRCC communicated that the distressed boaters had made it to shore, so the school crew began making plans to land and bring the men and their dog on board.
When they arrived, however, the team saw that there was no good place to land.
"We knew that those individuals were in the water for at least 45 minutes, and it was stated to us through our control that the elderly gentleman was severely hypothermic," Jean said. "Knowing that the next aircraft would take 15 minutes to come over, we elected to carry out the hoist and send a basket out to retrieve the individuals one after another."
The 87-year-old had lost the use of his legs due to the cold, Jean said, but his son was able to get him into the basket and hoisted up into the helicopter.
Once the two men and the dog were safely aboard the cormorant, Jean started first aid.
"We had the heat at max in the back to help warm the individuals up and we were calling back home and making sure that the SAR techs were ready," he said. "I needed help to take care of these individuals because it was above what I could do."
Master Warrant Officer Jeremy Kerr was the search and rescue technician leader waiting for the team when they got back to Comox.
"We were waiting for their landing, knowing this was incoming, with all our hypothermia treatments and our rewarming equipment," Kerr said.
After beginning to respond to treatment, the two men were taken to hospital in Comox, but the hospital couldn't look after their dog, according to LeRoux. Instead, he said, a member of the military police from 19 Wing Comox offered to take the dog and exchanged information with the rescued owners to ensure they could get their dog back.
The commanding officer praised the rescued men for having a method of contacting 911 on hand when things went wrong, and the training cormorant team for their quick response to the scene.
Had the men been in the water any longer, their lives could have been at risk, LeRoux said.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Spencer Harwood
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