Kootenay River rafting adventure ends in rescue

Kimberley Search and Rescue members spent Monday evening this week assisting people whose leisurely rafting trip ended up being longer than planned.

Kimberley RCMP Sgt. Chris Newel reports that Search and Rescue was activated just after 9 p.m. Monday, August 8, when a group of 13 rafters became separated from six others.

This was not a guided rafting trip related to a business, Newel said, just private individuals.

“The group started down the Kootenay River from Wasa around 2 p.m. Six of the rafters had gone ahead and when the remaining 13 failed to show they called police. A Kimberley RCMP officer was able to make contact with the group and found with the pending storm they had tried to abandon the trip. Unfortunately due the steep banks and dense bush they were unable to exit the river. The officer got an approximate location and activated Search and Rescue.”

Newel says that at no time were the rafters considered missing, they were just concerned about being unable to get out of the area they were in given the pending storm.

“Once on scene SAR team members navigated through the dense brush to access the stranded persons,” Newel said. “It took over three hours to get them all to safety. None were injured but they were not equipped for the night. It was around 1 a.m. by the time the rafters were able to head for home.”

“The terrain was very challenging, which created access issues in getting to the rafters and getting them out. The boats were used to remove some, others managed to walk out to the highway but it was very difficult given the conditions,” said Wendy Heatherington, Kimberley Search Manager.

“The SAR teams train for a variety of situations, but in this case it was perseverance that got the teams through the bush and in contact with the stranded rafters. Their dedication is to be commended,” Newel said. “We are relieved that nobody was hurt and everybody made it home safely”

carolyn.grant@kimberleybulletin.com