Gregory Payne and his sailing partner Bryan Miller were out on Okanagan Lake, Sunday morning, Aug. 30, when they saw something odd near the south end of the William R. Bennett Bridge.
“I noticed in the distance there was something that looked like a whale or something sticking its head up. We decided to sail closer because we were a-ways-away,” Payne said.
“As we got closer, we saw figures around the whale, which was actually a Sea-Doo. They started waving and yelling for help.”
Payne said they pulled a father and his two children out of the water and into their boat. The family was visiting from Vancouver, camping in the Okanagan for the weekend.
The father was that of Omur Terzioglu, who said he went Kelowna Boat Rentals to pick up two Sea-Doos on Sunday morning for himself, his 19-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter. The trio had been travelling north on the lake when they decided to turn back and return the watercraft at about 10:50 a.m.
“We were turning slowly… I turned towards the port when the Sea-Doo started losing its stability. The craft itself went more and more into port until it threw us off,” he said.
A marine engineer with Transport Canada trained in deep-sea survival techniques, Terzioglu sprang into action. He quickly handed off his daughter to his son, who was still on the other vessel before her body temperature dropped. He then worked on trying to turn the other Sea-Doo right side up.
“It wasn’t turning easily. I did manage to turn it over and it was afloat for a bit, but it showed signs the hull was taking in water. I tried to get back on it, but I understood right away there was water inside and it wasn’t stable.”
“The Sea-Doo took more water around its backside, and it started to sink,” Terzioglu said.
Despite his years of experience, he added he was terrified the moment the watercraft started tilting, especially since he had his children to protect. But Terzioglu said it was thanks to his training and Payne and Miller’s help that he and his family were able to get back to shore safely.
Now, Terzioglu said he wants Kelowna Boat Rentals to be more vigilant when monitoring their vessels and ensuring they are safe before renting them out.
“I’m going to discuss this matter with the boating safety office so we can make it safer for others and to make sure no one else experiences an incident like this,” he said.
Black Press Media has reached out to Kelowna Boat Rentals. They have not responded to a request for comment as of publication.
We will provide an update as more information becomes available.