VERNON - Vernon Search and Rescue is reminding the public to take precautions after a father and son were thrown from their Sea-doo and stranded in Okanagan Lake for hours.
The 40-year-old Calgary man and his 15-year-old son had gone out on a rented Sea-doo the afternoon of Friday, July 22, but when they failed to return, were reported overdue to the police.
RCMP and Search and Rescue teams faced high-winds, whitecaps and a large search area as they scoured the lake.
“The rental watercraft was located near Adventure Bay, several hundred meters offshore and drifting northward with the high waves and wind,” states a media release from search and rescue. “The subjects were not with the machine, and the safety tether was not attached to the ignition.”
A search was immediately conducted upwind from the machine's location.
“With three to four foot cresting waves and whitecaps, spotting an individual in the water was difficult, at best,” according to search and rescue.
Rescuers hailed down boats in the area to ask if they had seen the boy and his father.
Almost two kilometres upwind from the site where the abandoned watercraft was found, one of the search teams spotted a subject in the water.
“Waves were constantly rolling and crashing over him as he was rescued from the lake and brought aboard the search vessel. It was the missing father and he was suffering from hypothermia,” states the release.
At the same time, another search and rescue vessel was approached by a civilian boat, the occupants of which had located the missing son, and had him aboard.
The father and son were safely brought to the Paddlewheel Park boat launch, where they were treated for hypothermia by paramedics and transported to Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
“Further investigation determined the two individuals had indeed been in the water for roughly three and a half hours. They had been thrown off the watercraft when they were caught sideways by a wave in the rough weather. The father had been hit in the head and was disoriented and at first, unable to swim aggressively,” states the release.
The son swam to his father and then tried to reach the Sea-doo, but the waves kept pushing them farther apart. They both tried to swim to shore, but the waves were strong and the wind was blowing away from the shore.
Eventually, the son was able to swim towards shore, where he was found and rescued by people at a lakeside cabin.
The father and son were located approximately one kilometre apart and both subjects were experienced swimmers, search and rescue says.
“The father and son did the right thing by wearing their life jackets. Three hours in the water would not have been possible if they hadn't been,” states the release.
Vernon Search and Rescue is reminding everyone there are several precautions they can take that would prevent dramatic incidents such as this one from happening:
Always wear proper-fitting, approved life jackets. They must be snug at the waist and chest straps and not be able to float above your face while in the water.
Take notice of local weather conditions and forecasts, and adapt your activities accordingly.
Prepare for the unexpected, such as the watercraft you are using breaking down
Always keep friends or family informed of your plans, so that a rapid search response can be conducted if and when something goes wrong.
If there is an emergency, call 911 for emergency services.
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