SICAMOUS - A dramatic water rescue two weekends ago in the Shuswap has emergency officials reminding the public to take precautions around moving water.
A young woman in her 20s was hiking in the Sicamous Creek falls area on Sunday, June 11, when she slipped and fell into the water, Sicamous fire chief Brett Ogino says.
“Where she fell is a viewing point. It’s just a big rock, it’s not fenced or gated or anything,” he says.
The woman was carried down two roughly 10 ft waterfalls, and ended up climbing onto a large boulder about 100 ft from where she fell in.
“We were looking at the water afterwards and I can’t believe she didn’t hit her head or break a limb. I can’t believe she survived with only minor scrapes,” he says.
Due to the seriousness of the situation, Ogino says the fire department chose not to wait for the Salmon Arm-based Shuswap Search and Rescue to arrive before initiating the rescue.
“We took some calculated risks,” he says. “We weren’t as well equipped as we would like to be. We have basic swift water training, but we’re not certified for it.”
With freezing-cold snowmelt flowing down the creek, Ogino says the girl was becoming hypothermic and was screaming for help.
“She was pretty terrified,” Ogino says.
Crews assessed the situation, and carefully executed the rescue. In light of the situation, Ogino is planning on getting the department more equipped for this type of rescue operation in the future.
“The training is expensive, the equipment is expensive. But the Search and Rescue group is in Salmon Arm, they are minimum 30 minutes away, plus assembly time and travel time,” he says.
He says he’ll be appealing to Sicamous council to invest in the training and equipment.
While flood waters have eased somewhat around the Okanagan and Shuswap in recent days, Ogino says rivers are still running high and people should take extra precautions around swiftly moving water.
A video of the rescue was briefly posted on the Sicamous Fire Department's Facebook page, and while heavily edited to conceal the woman's identity, Ogino says her family has since asked that it be taken down after encountering some unkind comments on social media directed at the victim.
“I think the concern for me is people are blaming her — how could she fall in? You know what, it was an accident. There’s no blame to be handed out there,” Ogino says.
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