Fisherman drowns after falling into Chilliwack River Sunday

A fatal incident on the Chilliwack River was reported late Sunday afternoon. A fisherman wearing waders was swept downstream, and did not survive, according to BC Coroners Service. - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS FILE
A fatal incident on the Chilliwack River was reported late Sunday afternoon. A fisherman wearing waders was swept downstream, and did not survive, according to BC Coroners Service.

A fisherman slipped and fell into the churning Chilliwack River on Valentine's Day.

He was identified as Graeme Gordon Carswell, 21, of Delta, said a BC Coroners Service rep.

He'd been fishing near the Alison Pools with a companion who was unable to save him once he hit the water. Carswell was swept several kilometres downriver by the current. He went through the rapids, and did not make it out.

The young fisherman was recovered near Osborne Road.

"He was unresponsive at the time of rescue, and was transported to Chilliwack General Hospital. Unfortunately, he could not be resuscitated," said coroner Barb McLintock of BC Coroners Service.

RCMP, paramedics and Chilliwack Search and Rescue were called to the scene late Sunday afternoon.

Screams were heard from shore when the angler fell into the blown-out river, according to witnesses.

Sasha Harris said she managed to spot the angler and called it in around four p.m. She had seen a post on social media, and ran out to her backyard with her boyfriend to see if they could see anything by the river.

"I called police when we spotted him and stayed at scene where he laid," she wrote. "Very upsetting. My heart aches so bad today/tonight with remorse, shock and hurt.

Advance Life Support paramedics also administered CPR at the riverside, and tried to revive him.

"A huge thank you to the police, ambulance and search and rescue for doing all they could this evening for this man," said the witness.

Harris said she never would have gone out to look if she hadn't seen a post that said a fisherman had slipped into the river.

RCMP Victim Services was also called to the scene.

Chilliwack Search and Rescue launched two rafts to assist in the swift-water rescue attempt.

The fisherman was wearing waders with a belt, said CSAR search manager Doug Fraser, which was something he did right.

"That belt mechanism won't prevent water from entering the waders but it will slow it down, and possible give someone time to attempt to swim to shore."

The other thing he did right was to have a fishing companion with him.

"That's important because if you do slip and fall, there is a chance they could extend a rod or grab someone's hand," said Fraser.

But the fisherman wasn't wearing a personal floatation device.

"It's the lesson to be learned here. At the very minimum they should have the inflatable type where they can pull a rip cord device. It may have made a difference."

Alan Mclean posted online to say the fishermen went into the river near where he had been fishing recently. He wanted to warn other anglers to use extra caution and to wear a PFD.

"I feel for his family, I don't know if I know the person which makes it hard to deal with at the moment. My prayers and thoughts for his family.

"The high water makes the river very hazardous, more than usual."

The BC Coroners Service and RCMP continue to investigate this death.

"Mr. Carswell's family has been notified of his death. On behalf of family

members, the BC Coroners Service asks that media respect their privacy at this difficult time."

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