Tubing on the Chilliwack-Vedder River is a popular summer pastime but is quite dangerous according to Search and Rescue experts. (Paul Henderson/ Black Press file)

Tubing on the Chilliwack-Vedder River is a popular summer pastime but is quite dangerous according to Search and Rescue experts. (Paul Henderson/ Black Press file)

VIDEO: Near drowning captured on popular B.C. river

Search and Rescue manager says the popular pastime of floating in the summer is inherently dangerous

Every summer when the temperature gets hot enough, young people bring their tubes and inflatable pool toys – and usually beers – to float down the Chilliwack-Vedder River.

People cool off, enjoy the sun, have fun, and usually the day ends just fine.

But floating down this river with the massive amount of every-changing wood debris is incredibly dangerous, and there are countless incidents of people getting into trouble.

On July 15, someone posted a video of two people falling off a pool floatie and desperately hanging on to the wood logs. They ended up making it OK, but the person who posted it on Facebook, Connor Visagie, said they weren’t the only people to get into trouble.

“Seven people were caught under this log jam just on Sunday alone even after being flagged down and being told so get off your tube and go to the right,” he wrote.

Visagie said he spent hours on the river flagging people down and directing them to a safer route, even going so far as to make a sign.

For Chilliwack Search and Rescue (CSAR) search manager Doug Fraser the video is “scary,” “frustrating” and, “typical.”

“There are constant safety messages being promoted and it seems people continue to be ignorant of it or perhaps choose to ignore it thinking that the river is harmless,” Fraser said.

• RELATED: Woman dies in kayaking accident on Vedder River in Chilliwack

Fraser said CSAR may not be called out very often to rescue people in situations such as the one depicted in the video but those instances happen frequently.

“In most cases, people can self rescue or they have bystanders that come to their aid,” he said. “You just have to look at any hot summer day and you can count the number of people coming down the river.”

So what’s so dangerous about floating down the river?

First of all, the huge volume of wood in that river means there are countless opportunities to have what is essentially an inflatable toy popped by a branch.

Then there are the “strainers” or the “sweepers.” A sweeper is a single log that can knock someone off a tube, and a strainer is a collection of logs, sometimes including root balls, that catches tubes and floaties and people, forcing them under water.

Essentially there is no way to float down the river safely unless you are in a river-approved watercraft, with a life jacket, helmet and, hopefully, you have swift water awareness training, according to Fraser.

“It’s inherently dangerous,” Fraser said. “They are taking a significant risk every time they go out.”

He added that he’s not sure if the activity is becoming more or less common, but what is increasing is the sharing on social media of gatherings.

“Floating down the river has always been popular, but one thing that I would say that is definitely increasing, and it’s troubling, is advertised meetups or events to have a whole large group of people go for a float. That concerns me a great deal.”

For water safety information Fraser points to chilliwacksar.org or adventuresmart.ca. He said there are lots of places people can also get training as well, including Chilliwack-based Rescue Canada.

• RELATED: Body of young man who drowned in Chilliwack Lake recovered


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

Grand Forks’ Roly Russell met with The Gazette after he was named Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development Thursday, Nov. 26. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
NDP’s Roly Russell named secretary for rural development

Russell formerly represented rural Grand Forks on the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary’s elected board

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

Princeton council hopes fresh storefronts will compliment the investment already made in the downtown gateways and bronze statue park. (John Moody photo)
New program promises money for Princeton businesses to improve their storefronts

The municipality plans to commit $100,000 over the next five years

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Summerland residents have been receiving a telephone scam with the number showing as the telephone number of the local RCMP detachment. (Black Press Media files)
Summerland RCMP telephone number spoofed in scam calls

Number used in scam attempts from tax agency

(Village of Lumby photo)
Mysterious, loud ‘boom’ shakes North Okanagan residents

Village staff, Earthquakes Canada aren’t sure what caused the explosion-like sound

Clarence Fulton students collect cash and non-perishable food donations for families in need in their community Friday, Nov. 27. (Jennifer Smith  - Morning Star)
North Okanagan students collect food for families in need

Annual event to support nine school families this year

Take a break from the slopes to discover the rich culture and diversity of Vernon. Michelle Beaudry photo, courtesy Tourism Vernon.
Tourism Vernon could see 40% cut to budget due to COVID-19

New approach to help residents and visitors activate their adventures

Follow public health recommendations, says Interior Health as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Revelstoke. (Image courtesy CDC)
Revelstoke positive COVID cases grows to 29

Interior Health announced a cluster in the community on Nov. 26

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Penticton law courts
Osoyoos child sex offender in court

Shawn Titus, 37, is charged with possession of child porn

Most Read