ENDERBY - The public is being reminded to stay off the Shuswap River after a group of tubers hit a log jam and had to be rescued by a nearby fisherman.
It was around 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 25, when Mickey Vandemortel and a friend noticed six tubers headed straight towards a log jam in the Ashton Creek area of the Shuswap River.
“The river was going pretty fast,” Vandemortel says. “I looked at (my friend) and said ‘they’re going to hit that log jam.’”
He was already heading towards the group when they collided with the pile of logs and debris. Four went under the log jam and popped up on the other side, drifting down the river, while two women were left hanging onto the logs.
“I told them ‘hold on, we’ll get you out,’” Vandemortel says. “They were crying and pretty freaked out.”
Vandemortel helped the tubers, who he says were in their late teens to early 20s, back to shore.
“They lost all their keys, their wallets, everything,” he says.
It’s not the first time he and his friends have helped people out of a bad situation on the river.
“It’s well over 20 times,” he says. “It’s sad, it happens all the time. People are oblivious, they don’t know the river. You have to really pay attention out there.”
He says the water may seem calm when you launch your tubes, but conditions can change downstream.
In 2011, two people drowned in the Shuswap River, one of whom was pulled under a log jam near the 400 block of Enderby-Mabel Lake Road. Just this week, a young man drowned in Penticton while floating down the Okanagan River Channel.
Vandemortel is glad he was in the right place at the right time to help the six tubers on the Shuswap River.
“It could’ve been a lot worse for them,” he says.
Sheryl Hay, with the Enderby and District Chamber of Commerce, says they are recommending that people stay off the river completely over the Canada Day long weekend due to high water, swift currents, cold water and log jams.
“When people get into trouble and their tubes pop, the water is very cold and they are at risk of hypothermia,” Hay says.
There are also many mosquitos out, making the tubing experience not very enjoyable anyways.
With hot, sunny weather forecast for the long weekend, Hay realizes that some people will take the risk and head out on the river regardless. If they do, she recommends taking the shortest tubing route from Belvedere Park to Tuey Park and wearing a life jacket. It is strongly recommended that people stay off the upper section of the river, above the Bawtree Bridge in Enderby.
Members of the public are advised that while Tuey (Waterwheel) Park is open, it is quite muddy and there is not much beach due to high water.
People looking to cool off in the area may want to check out Mara Beach, just 15 minutes north on Highway 97A.
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