Coast Guard volunteers rescue 18 people

Nanaimo Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers pulled 18 people out of the water Wednesday evening after their dragon boat capsized.

Nanaimo Coast Guard Auxiliary volunteers pulled 18 people out of the water last week after their dragon boat capsized in Departure Bay.

Steve Jackson, group spokesman, said volunteers were about to go out for a training exercise when the mayday call came in shortly after 7 p.m. March 21, so the crew was able to get to the scene within five minutes.

“Our crew was basically getting our suits on when the call came in,” he said. “Our typical response time is 25 minutes. If they would have been in the water 25 minutes, it would have been a lot more serious. There were no other vessels in the area.”

The boat capsized about 90 metres from Newcastle Island and one person had managed to swim to shore before auxiliary crews arrived on scene, while the others were clinging to the boat or to life jackets, Jackson added.

Volunteers brought everyone back to auxiliary headquarters nearby to warm up – one person was treated by paramedics for hypothermia – then went back out to retrieve the boat.

“This is the largest-scale rescue I can think of in the past decade in Nanaimo waters,” said Jackson. “They were out there on their own. Maybe it’s good to go out with another type of boat so they have some sort of safety net.”