Volunteers aboard the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 29’s Ladysmith Responder

Training exercise turns into rescue for Ladysmith Marine Search and Rescue volunteers

Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue volunteers from Ladysmith and Nanaimo were training when they were called to rescue kayakers.

A training exercise turned into a life-saving mission for marine search and rescue volunteers from Ladysmith this past weekend.

Bill Bond is Ladysmith Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue (RCM-SAR) Station 29’s newest coxswain, and on his first mission in his new role, his vessel and crew were responsible for rescuing a hypothermic swimmer near Round Island Saturday, Jan. 26.

While Station 29’s Ladysmith Responder and its crew was conducting a coxswain training exercise with Nanaimo 27 and Nanaimo 27B near Dodds Narrows, a pan pan message — which is one step down from a mayday — was heard on Channel 16 stating that two people and an overturned kayak had been spotted in the water in the Boat Harbour/Yellow Point area, Nick Epp-Evans, the station leader in Ladysmith, explained in a news release.

The Nanaimo 27 vessel (McGregor) responded to Victoria Coast Guard radio that they and Ladysmith 29 were in the area on a training exercise and could respond immediately. Victoria then tasked Ladysmith immediately.

After an approximately five- to 10-minute transit toward the Boat Harbour area from the vessels’ location on the south end of Dodd Narrows, Nanaimo 27 spotted the capsized kayak and two people in the water just south of Round Island, according to Epp-Evans.

The Ladysmith crew — Bond and two crew members, Dan Smith and Dwayne Dyer (also coxswains with Station 29), and a guest crew member, Paul Mottershead from Nanaimo 27 — recovered one person from the water, while Nanaimo 27A recovered the other person and Nanaimo 27B retrieved the capsized kayak and paddles.

The person retrieved by Ladysmith was treated on the deck for hypothermia and was then transferred to the Nanaimo 27 enclosed-cabin boat for transport to the Boat Harbour Marina to meet BC Ambulance attendants, according to Epp-Evans.

“If these vessels had not been training in the vicinity, this situation could easily have proven life-threatening,” he explained. “Normally, a rescue vessel being tasked would have taken at least half an hour to reach this destination. With a location different from the actual being reported, an even longer time frame would have occurred.

“In these waters, at this time a year, an individual would be in dire distress after 20 minutes.”

Bond was officially listed as the coxswain for the call, getting his first taste of being in charge of the vessel and crew in a real-life experience of saving lives on the water.

Bond has been an active crew member with Station 29 since 2008, and he recently completed both the Marine Advanced First Aid course in November and the Canadian Coast Guard’s Rigid Hull Inflatable Operator Training course in Bamfield during the second week of January.

“Bill also brings a wealth of knowledge to this type of call with his years of experience as a PADI IDC Staff Instructor for Scuba Diving, and Bill has been an integral part of Station 29’s in-water training program and hypothermia prevention protocols,” said Epp-Evans.

Ladysmith RCM-SAR — formerly called the Coast Guard Auxiliary — is a volunteer organization. It is one of the busiest units in the region, with more than 3,000 calls since its inception. To learn more or to make a donation, visit click here.

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