Kitimat Search & Rescue promotes several river safety initiatives

Hillary Johnson

In light of recent drownings in the Kitimat River, Kitimat Search and Rescue has partnered with two local fishing guides (Ron Wakita and Tracy Hittel) to promote several river safety initiatives.

KSAR Search Manager Kelly Marsh, says the goal is to change the current fishing culture and educate boaters and anglers on the Kitimat River, to wear the personal flotation devices at all times, among other safety protocols.

"I think the biggest thing is for people to not only have their PFD their life jacket on board but to be wearing it. The compliance rate is under 50 percent from our observations of people actually to wear their life jackets on the Kitimat River. You see someone paddling, and they got their kids in life jackets, but themselves aren't wearing theirs. Because, with these mistakes, we make poor judgments. They make a big difference in the family and friends of the loved ones when there is an accident."

He advises everyone when you go out to fish, to remember the acronym NICK which stands for:
   -- Never use waders without a belt,
   -- Include a knife to cut waders off and remove trapped water in an emergency,
   -- Closer to shore is safer,  and
   -- Keep your PFD on at all times.

"NICK" also remembers 21-year-old Nick Hopwood, a volunteer Kitimat firefighter who drowned on the Kitimat River one year ago.


"I think the personal flotation device is the big key. We are not naive enough to believe a PFD is going to save everybody, but it is going to give you a fighting chance, and in worst-case scenarios, it's going to help us bring people that have an accident in the river, back to their families," Marsh explained.

Marsh says that with their high emergency call volume, it warrants the re-establishment of a Swift Water Rescue Team. The Emergency Management of British Columbia is currently reviewing the group's application that would see the team put back in place.

"Terrace Swift Water Rescue helps us out lots with river calls, as well as the Kitimat Fisheries staff. You can appreciate that time is critical when responding to river emergency, so having our own trained swift water rescue team and getting to the scene maybe 20 to 30 minutes earlier can make a huge difference in the outcome."

Marsh says as locals; we need to set a good example for visiting tourists that utilize area waterways by wearing proper safety gear and following established safety practices.

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