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 Vedder River in Chilliwack

Search and Rescue manager says the popular pastime of floating down river 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

Chilliwack’s youth health clinic staying open thanks to virtual visits

Health professionals still available for youth in a digital realm during COVID-19 pandemic

Convention called off for Key Clubs, but Chilliwack still earns awards

‘To be recognized at this level is truly amazing!’

Chilliwack councillor has a message to share amid this time of fear: ‘there is hope’

‘I realize there’s much more than fear and worry… there is new life and there is community’: Jason Lum

Abbotsford Triathlon Club staying fit in COVID-19 era

ATC members using virtual reality training, social media and solo races to keep in shape

Trailer severely damaged in Sunday morning fire in downtown Chilliwack

Two people were sleeping in the trailer at the time, but they managed to get out with their dog

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Weekend crowds at South Surrey parks, waterfront cause concern

RCMP and bylaw officials attended Crescent Beach Sunday, police confirm

LifeLabs reducing public hours as it assists with COVID-19 testing

Coronavirus tests not done at B.C. patient centres, referrals only

24,000 Canadian Forces members ready for COVID-19 response: Defence Minister

No direct requests made by premiers yet, national defence minister says

IN DEPTH: How B.C. emptied its hospitals to prepare for COVID-19

Thousands of beds have been freed up, but patients and seniors have had to sacrifice

‘Nothing concrete’: Tenants, landlords lack details after B.C. unveils COVID-19 rental aid

Single mom in Golden says she’s already going to the food bank after being laid off

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

World COVID-19 morning update: Olympics delayed one year; 12,000 health care workers infected

Comprehensive world news update: Lockdown in UK showing signs of hope

Most Read