Penticton fire official raises concerns after rescuing floaters on river channel, again | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton fire official raises concerns after rescuing floaters on river channel, again

FILE PHOTO- High water flowing under the Green Mountain Road bridge on the Okanagan River Channel. Channel floaters became entangled on the abutment yesterday, July 21, 2020, but managed to extricated themselves without injury.
July 22, 2020 - 11:33 AM

Members of the Penticton Fire Department were called yesterday to another rescue on the Okanagan River channel in the city, and a fire official says it could have had grave consequences.

Deputy fire chief Chris Forster says firefighters were called to the Green Mountain Road bridge on the river channel at around 2:15 p.m. yesterday, July 21, after several floaters became tangled on the bridge abutment. It was the fourth call to the channel to rescue floaters in the past two week.

Firefighters arrived to find four people unaccounted for after a group of floaters became stuck.

Rescuers were able to confirm two were OK, and the two other missing floaters were found around 700 metres further down the channel.

“They were able to free themselves and two continued on down the river,” Forster said.

It’s assumed the floaters were tied together when they became stuck on the abutment.

Forster says the rescues are becoming a concern, especially when it comes to entanglements on the bridge.

“The problem is, the tubes can flip when they get tangled on the abutment and the person gets pinned and trapped underwater. When these types of calls come in, that’s the first thing we think about – how bad is it,” he said.

Roughly 90 per cent of the time the floaters are still on the rafts or they are above water and holding on, he said. In those cases, all rescuers need is someone to cut the ropes binding them to the abutment.

“Nine times out of 10 it works out and everyone is safe, but when we have the high flowing water there is that potential and risk. We really can’t stress enough to exercise caution and remember two safety rules: don’t tie the tubes and wear a personal floatation device,” Forster said.

“What has concerned us in the last two weeks of rescues, we are finding people needing rescue who not only didn’t have a life jacket on, they didn’t know how to swim. We recommend a (personal floatation device) all the time, but if you feel you’re not going to wear one, if you don’t know how to swim, you really need to. That’s a minimum precaution for someone who doesn’t know how to swim,” he says.

"The abutment rescues are always the biggest concern, because it only takes seconds to happen and you can easily be pinned and trapped under the water.”

In late June, 2017, a channel floater became lodged against a Green Mountain bridge abutment and drowned during a period of high, fast water in the channel.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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